Is There a Chronic Fatigue Test I Can Take? How Can I Tell If I Have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Something Else?

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Many people are concerned about their fatigue with no known origin and wonder if there is a chronic fatigue testSo what is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and is a chronic fatigue test necessary? CFS as defined today, is a collection of specific symptoms, with the main one being chronic fatigue severe enough to restrict daily activities. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Prolonged fatigue and tiredness
  • Extreme exhaustion that lasts 24 or more hours after exercising
  • Feeling unrefreshed after sleeping
  • Feeling unrefreshed after sleeping
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Headaches, muscle and joint pains
  • Muscle weakness

CFS is not a very well understood condition; some experts claim CFS is a distinct illness, while others say otherwise. Whatever the case, currently there is no cure for CFS, and treatment consists of alleviating the various symptoms of CFS, starting with prolonged fatigue. Usually medication will be prescribed to alleviate pain, reduce fever, and treat anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, there is no chronic fatigue test that can confirm a definitive diagnosis. Many test results show normal values even when symptoms are present in those with CFS. Furthermore, the symptoms of CFS can mimic a number of disorders, medical issues, or mental problems, so other illnesses must be ruled out first. In particular, many symptoms of CFS and adrenal fatigue are similar.

There is no confirming chronic fatigue test so other tests like complete blood count can rule out other possible diseasesSome general health tests to check for conditions that can give rise to many similar symptoms include:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Blood glucose level
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test
  • Chemistry panel
  • Urinalysis

Additionally, some further testing may be done to check for specific conditions that can cause many of these symptoms such as:

  • Hepatitis A, B, or C
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection

Now if all these tests and others are negative for other conditions, that must mean you have CFS, right? Well, not quite. Remember that conventional medical tests can only reveal so much, and there are some conditions that, like CFS, don’t show up on them.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a common but overlooked neuroendocrine disorder caused by weakness of the adrenal glands, and also causes the symptoms listed above as well as many more. This adrenal dysfunction is generally caused by chronic stress abundant in society today. The adrenal glands are the first stress response organ to leap into action and work tirelessly to keep the body stable and in balance during times of stress. Too much stress over a long period of time means the adrenal glands are never given a chance to rest, and they eventually start wearing out. The body becomes overloaded with histamine which can trigger inflammatory reactions that can cause pain and fatigue.

Some of these symptoms at first glance would seem to be unrelated to dysfunction of the adrenal glands. It can be challenging to reconcile joint pain or muscle weakness with underfunctioning of the adrenal glands, but they are in fact connected. The body’s stress response, of which the adrenals are a central part, actually encompasses a number of stress response circuits that altogether form what is called the neuroendometabolic (NEM) stress response system.

These stress response circuits include organs and systems that regulate metabolic processes such as energy storage and mobilization, intestinal wall permeability, the inflammatory response and immune functions. This interaction between the adrenal glands, its response to stress and the NEM stress response system throughout the body makes Adrenal Fatigue a truly systemic condition with effects widespread symptoms.

If chronic fatigue test cannot determine a cause, muscle pain might be from chronic fatigue or it might be something elseFortunately, unlike chronic fatigue syndrome, there is an effective methodology to addressing the root cause of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome instead of simply treating the symptoms. Proper diet, nutritional supplementation, reduction of stress, and living a balanced life give the adrenal glands the resources and rest time it needs to function at its optimal level. Once the adrenals are healed, all the symptoms caused by AFS should go away by themselves, with no need for continuing medications.

Our Final Note on a Chronic Fatigue Test

Although there is no definitive chronic fatigue test and all other tests have come back normal, you may think you still have the condition, provided that it meets diagnostic criteria of CFS set up by the government. If it is severe enough that you require treatment to control the symptoms, thinking out of the box and investigating Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome may be a worthwhile approach.

© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

There is no confirming chronic fatigue test so other tests like complete blood count can rule out other possible diseases
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This article is a wonderful tool for me to keep in mind in those "woe is me" moments. I'm grateful for you and all that you do, Dr. Lam. Thank you for this informative reminder to stay positive as much as possible!