Chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition marked by severe fatigue, affects 3.3 million adults in the U.S., a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a serious, long-term multisystem illness that limits a person's activity due to fatigue. The symptoms of the condition often worsen with physical or mental activity.

According to the first nationally representative survey conducted by CDC to estimate the number of patients with CFS, 1.3% of the population had it between 2021 and 2022. The condition "is not a rare illness," said CDC's Dr. Elizabeth Unger, who was also a co-author of the survey report.

The estimates are higher than previous studies, probably due to the spike in cases associated with long COVID, Associated Press reported.

The survey brought out some interesting findings. The percentage of adults with the illness increased in the age group of 60–69 and then declined among those aged 70 and older. The percentage of adults having CFS varied by race. White non-Hispanic adults (1.5%) were more likely to have the condition in comparison to Asian non-Hispanic (0.7%) and Hispanic (0.8%) adults. The percentage of adults with CFS decreased with an increase in family income.

Know the symptoms of CFS

Many signs of CFS may look similar to those of other illnesses, and there is no definite test to diagnose the condition. For some, the severity of symptoms may fluctuate over time.

Primary symptoms

  • A drop in activity level, along with fatigue, that lasts six months or longer - Fatigue in this case is not just a passing feeling of tiredness that could be relieved by rest or sleep but severe and persistent. The person has a lowered level of activity compared to the activity levels before the illness.
  • Post-exertional malaise - The worsening of symptoms after physical or mental activity that was not present before the illness.
  • Sleep issues - Difficulty falling asleep and not feeling better or less tired even after a restful night.

Additional symptoms

A person with CFS may have issues with memory, difficulty thinking quickly and paying attention to details. The condition is often referred to as "brain fog." Some people may have vision issues and may feel dizzy or faint while standing up. People with CFS may also have headaches, muscle pain, swelling and joint aches. Sore throat, digestive issues, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, allergies, chills and night sweats are also some of the signs.


Experts believe that CFS is caused by a combination of various factors, including certain infections, genetics, immune changes, physical and emotional stress and changes in the body's energy production.


There is no definite cure or treatment for CFS. The treatment strategy involves effective ways to manage the symptoms. Medications may help the patient with issues such as lack of sleep, aches, dizziness and memory. Providing professional counseling and complementary therapies such as meditation, gentle massage, deep breathing or relaxation therapy can also be beneficial. Ensuring a balanced diet and taking the right nutrient supplement can benefit some people.

You can support patients with CFS by finding ways to make their daily activities easier. Taking frequent breaks and dividing large tasks into small activities can make many activities doable.