HealthDay News — Chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating illness affecting up to 2.5 million Americans, may soon get a new name and set of diagnostic criteria.

An independent panel of experts convened by the United States government called the illness a legitimate disease that features five main symptoms and should be taken seriously by providers.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee behind the report is urging that chronic fatigue syndrome be renamed “systemic exertion intolerance disease,” to better reflect the seriousness of its effect on patients.

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The IOM report lays out new diagnostic criteria to help streamline the process. According to the new report, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome suffer three core symptoms:

  1. Impaired ability to engage in pre-illness levels of activity that persists for more than six months and is accompanied by often-profound fatigue
  2. A worsening of these symptoms after any type of exertion, including physical or mental exercises or emotional stress
  3. Sleep that does not alleviate fatigue

To diagnose someone with chronic fatigue syndrome, a provider also must find the person is suffering from one of two additional problems: impaired ability to think and/or inability to remain upright, with symptoms that improve when lying down.

A diagnosis also depends on these symptoms persisting for at least six months, and they must present at least half the time with moderate to severe intensity, concluded the IOM panel.


  1. Institute of Medicine. (2015). Beyond myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome: redefining an illness. Washington, DC: Clayton EW.