Prevalence and Costs

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex, multi-systemic disorder affecting from 1-4 million people in the United States and approximately 200,000 people in Canada. ME/CFS typically costs families approximately $25,000 a year in lost wages and medical costs. Total costs to the US economy range from 19-25 billion dollars a year.

Who Gets Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)?

While people of every age, sex and socioeconomic class get CFS, middle-aged women appear to be at the highest risk. Some evidence suggests that people with lower incomes also have a higher risk of getting this disease.

Some researchers believe increased rates of physical and/or psychological stress may increase ones risk of getting CFS. Many CFS patients cannot, however, identify a trigger for their illness. Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) does not appear to be contagious but some evidence suggests there is a hereditary component to the disease and that it can run in some families.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Only approximately 20% of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients in the U.S. have been diagnosed. Because no laboratory tests unique to the disease have been found patients are diagnosed using symptoms and by eliminating other diseases. According to the International Definition (1994) CFS is characterized by unexplained severe fatigue lasting for over six months that is not substantially alleviated by rest.

Chronic fatigue syndrome patients must also display four or more of the following symptoms; post-exertional malaise, unrefreshing sleep, memory and/or concentration problems, muscle and/or joint pains, headaches, sore throat and tender lymph nodes.

Because diagnosing ME/CFS requires ruling out numerous other diseases (thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, depression, etc.) that could cause similar symptoms this disease can only be diagnosed by a physician. Patients commonly also display a wide array of other symptoms.


Recovery rates appear to be highest in the first two years of the disease. A significant percentage of CFS patients improve over time and a smaller number decline. While total recoveries do occur they do not appear to be common. Recovery can occur, however, even in patients who have had this disease for decades. Studies on mortality are rare but CFS does not appear to be associated with increased mortality.

Causes of CFS

A wide variety of immune, endocrine, cardiovascular and central nervous abnormalities have been reported in CFS. Among the causes suggested for CFS include damage to parts of the brain governing cognition, memory, mood, energy and perception, an altered stress response, an unbalanced immune system, a hidden chronic infection, dysfunction of the interferon pathway, rampant free radical production, abnormal sympathetic nervous system activity, cardiac dysfunction and others.

Treating CFS

There is no cure for CFS but physicians employ a wide variety of pharmaceutical drugs, alternative therapies, nutritional aids and coping strategies to ameliorate the symptoms of CFS.




{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

margiestadt2juno.com May 10, 2013 at 7:53 am

I hate to sound stupid, but what does MS mean in the name on your LOGO.


Michael August 27, 2013 at 9:01 am

I think you’re asking about the “ME” in ME/CFS.
Sites offering help on the subject often leave out the meaning of this acronym which is Myalgic Encephalopathy,“ME” (a term which The ME Association feels is more appropriate than the original, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis).


Annie Shuman November 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I am new to this website and am just another person with ME and reaching out after 3 years going it alone…are there others anyone would like to recommend? What about MD’s in various States – how do you find someone who “treats” ME?? Thanks :)


Annie Balsbaugh December 3, 2013 at 8:53 am

Dear Annie Shuman, first i want to say how very sorry i am for the pain I know this illness brings, our family endured this terrible disease when our daughter became ill when she was 11, she didnt get better until she was 18, and still has some problems with hurting lymph glands, and becomes very tired if she doesnt get her rest, but is almost 90% well, we went through this time feeling very alone, as the medical world in the US, is not helpful at all, and blamed us for her sickness, as well as family and friends, who just didnt care, and wouldnt take alittle time to educate themselves, on ME, our daughter was very sick unable to care for herself most of the time, she has little memories of these years, which is heartbreaking, and so sad, please dont feel alone, there is help, I dont like to tell others what to do, but we know that the help we found on the internet was very helpful, it was difficult for many yrs. because no one could tell us what was wrong with her, I spent hrs. searching for answers, and spent hrs. on my knees, praying to Jesus, we believe with all our hearts, that those prayers were answered with a yes!, we found help through a man named Dr.Mickel, of the UK, he started a therapy called Mickel Therapy, look it up, it’s worth looking into, as of 4 yrs. ago there were just 4 therepist here in the US, but there could be more now, all I can say is we noticed a difference from the first day of therapy, which we used by way of webcam, from home, which was a real blessing, because she could not travel of course, it took a good two years to really say she was well, it isnt over night, as it takes time to find who you are and how to live in this new way after being so sick for so long, you need to learn many things about yourself, and really it is a strange feeling, your’re 11 yrs. old, then you wake up from a long nightmare, to find yourself 17, it’s like starting on one side of a long, dark tunnel, and when you come out the other side your’e 17, with no idea who you really are, and no idea what a 17 yr. old is suppose to be, the recovery time was longer than we’d hoped, but we are 4 yrs. into it, and she is doing well, although she has yet to finish highschool, she was unable to learn, having ME makes it almost impossible to do any school work, she now can enjoy going outside in the sunshine,(she couldnt bear sunshine while being ill all those yrs., and can have friends for the first time ever, and a job too, it has been a hard journey, but we have learned alot about compassion, and how to never give up, may you find hope today, and we pray you too will be well again soon! from someone who cares and understands! please let me know if we can help in any way, “That I may rejoice in the day of Jesus Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain” Phillipians 2:16, from the Holy Bible, with love and care for you and all who suffer with ME/CFS


Eileen Wesner May 14, 2015 at 7:26 pm

Thank you SO MUCH for this encouragement ! My two daughters have CFS AND FIBROMY. They have been so sick and searching, searching, searching for answers. We have been to many Dr.”s but God has finally brought them to holistic and Integrative medicine help. However, they are still struggling BUT improving. My one daughter and her husband moved to Arizona. My daughter (Mary) is doing better there overall. The barometer changes effect both my girls with extreme CFS and pain.
There is much more I could share but I just wanted you to know how much I appreciated your focus from the truth of scripture. ” That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings…” Phil.3: 10 We are to Glorify God, in whatever state I am in, and enjoy Him forever. May God give daily strength and focus for our Creator.
God Bless you,
Eileen Wesner

pamela jerrett September 15, 2014 at 10:01 am

Hi, I have had CFS for years until I went to a functional medicine Dr.. I haven’t felt this good in years, http://www.functionalmedicine.org. They treat the cause.


Molly Malone March 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Thank you Annie Balsbaugh! I don’t know if this will help anyone, but Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum has a book called From Fatigued to Fantastic [Amazon] which may help. He has many solutions from natural to over the counter to prescription for each facet and you get to make the choices for your own treatment. I am just beginning to read and learn, but I think it’s a very helpful book and the 2 things I am doing [ribose helps with mitochondria energy] are helping a bit. Nothing ‘magical’ but any help is better than none and far better than getting worse!
I wish your daughter all the best, I have already prayed for her.
Blessings to all!


arianne ciarlo November 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I take offense to this statement, “Only approximately 20% of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients in the U.S. have been diagnosed. Because no laboratory tests unique to the disease have been found patients are diagnosed using symptoms”

There ARE laboratory tests today that clearly show the immune dysfunction. So why are you still saying there are no laboratory tests. There are also lab tests to show the repeated activation of mono and other viruses.


Mollie May 22, 2015 at 7:22 am

Arianne, which blood test are you speaking of? I have CFS and doctors have always told me no test can diagnose it. It’s a diagnoses of exclusion. I wish it was more understood but unfortunately it’s not. It’s been almost 3 years for me suffering with this. I’m now starting to reach out and talk to other sufferers to help me cope and understand.


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