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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Making the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalitis in primary care: a qualitative study

Carolyn Chew-Graham, Christopher Dowrick, Alison Wearden, Victoria Richardson and Sarah Peters*

BMC Family Practice 2010, 11:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-16

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Early diagnosis of CFS/ME has been shown to lead to a better prognosis

Tom Kindlon   (2010-04-06 08:17)  Irish ME/CFS Association - for Information, Support & Research email

It was interesting to see the various views expressed by GPs in this paper[1]. However I think a couple of useful points could have been added.

There is much discussion in the paper about whether a label of CFS/ME is useful or not. The authors refer to NICE guidelines which "emphasise the importance of a definitive diagnosis"[2]. However, I think it would have been useful to add some direct evidence on this issue. For example, research published by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which found that an earlier diagnosis led to a better prognosis[3]. This prompted the CDC to launch a two-pronged awareness drive aimed at both health professionals and the general public - the tag line for the latter was, "Get informed. Get diagnosed. Get help."[4]. A UK study found that the longer the interval between a patient falling ill and getting a diagnosis, the greater the likelihood that they would become severely affected. [5]

The authors mention the issue of CFS/ME being managed in primary care. It is important for GPs to know that GPs encouraging patients to do a graded exercise programme is associated with a higher rate of adverse reactions. For example, a survey which asked patients about their experiences of treatments over the previous three years found that 45% reported being made worse by a graded exercise therapy (GET) programme overseen by their GP, compared to 31% who reported being made worse by a GET under a NHS specialist and 29% of those who did a GET in other circumstances[6]. The NICE guidelines do not recommend that a GP oversee such an approach[2].


[1] Chew-Graham C, Dowrick C, Wearden A, Richardson V, Peters S. Making the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalitis in primary care: a qualitative study. BMC Fam Pract. 2010 Feb 23;11:16.

[2] NICE CG 53 Chronic fatigue syndrome/Myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy) guideline.

[3] Nisenbaum R, Jones JF, Unger ER, Reyes M and Reeves WC. A population-based study of the clinical course of chronic fatigue syndrome. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2003;1:49-58.

[4] CDC Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Campaign. [Last accessed: 31 March, 2010]

[5] Pheby D and Saffron L. Biology and Medicine (2009); 1 (4):50-74. [Last accessed: 31 March, 2010]

[6] Action for M.E. and AYME Survey 2008 Results [Last accessed: 31 March, 2010]

Competing interests

No competing interests


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