Chronic fatigue syndrome: probable pathogenesis and possible treatments

Drugs. 2002;62(17):2433-46. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200262170-00003.


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) belongs in the medically unexplained illnesses. It affects approximately 0.2-0.7% of the population in Western countries. It is characterised by unexplained fatigue, lasting 6 months or more, impairment of neurocognitive functions and quality of sleep, and of somatic symptoms, such as recurrent sore throat, muscle aches, arthralgias, headache and postexertional malaise. No link between infections and CFS has been clearly established but the immune system is activated, there are aberrations in several hypothalamic-pituitary axes and involvement of other parts of the central nervous system. No specific treatment has been found. Cognitive behavioural therapy is established to be of value to improve quality of life. More effective treatment should result, as advances in biomedical as well as psychological research continue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / etiology*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Glucocorticoids