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CFS is a serious condition that can cause long-term illness and disability, but many people – particularly children and young people – improve over time.

Who is affected?

It's estimated around 250,000 people in the UK have CFS.

Anyone can get the condition, although it's more common in women than men.

It usually develops when people are in their early 20's to mid-40's Children can also be affected, usually between the ages of 13 and 15.

How it affects quality of life

Most cases of CFS are mild or moderate, but up to one in four people with CFS have severe symptoms. These are defined as follows:

Why it happens

It's not known exactly what causes CFS. Various theories have been suggested, including:

Some people are thought to be more susceptible to the condition because of their genes, as the condition is more common in some families.

More research is needed to confirm exactly what causes the condition.

How it is diagnosed

There are specific guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) about the diagnosis and management of CFS.

NICE says a diagnosis of CFS should be considered if you meet specific criteria regarding your fatigue – for example, it can't be explained by other conditions – and if you also have other symptoms, such as sleeping problems or problems thinking and concentrating.

The diagnosis can then be confirmed if these symptoms are experienced for several months.

How it is treated

Treatment for CFS may be able to reduce the symptoms. Everyone with CFS responds to treatment differently, so your treatment plan will be tailored to you.

Some of the main treatments include:

Most people with CFS improve over time, although some people don't make a full recovery. It's also likely there will be periods when symptoms get better or worse. Children and young people with CFS are more likely to recover fully.

Different terms for the condition

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME – often used and preferred by doctors as there's little evidence of brain and spinal cord inflammation, which the term ME suggests; ME is also thought to be too specific to cover all the symptoms of the condition

MYALGIC ENCEPHALOMYELITIS (ME) – preferred by those who feel CFS is not specific enough and doesn't reflect the severity and different types of fatigue, and implies that fatigue is the only symptom (myalgic encephalopathy is sometimes also used)

SYSTEMIC EXERTION INTOLERANCE DISEASE (SEID) – a new term suggested in a 2015 report by the US Institute of Medicine, which implies that the condition affects many systems in the body (systemic); the word "disease" highlights the serious nature of the condition in some people

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Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) - also known as (ME) myalgic encephalomyelitis - causes persistent fatigue (exhaustion) that affects everyday life and doesn't go away with sleep or rest.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME)