Medical Tests for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Medical Tests for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

There is no test that is officially-recognized to "prove" someone has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. However, some people find the tests on this page to be helpful.

Many are diagnosed without testing - based on symptoms and ruling out other conditions.

If you are applying for Social Security disability, please check out this page for a list of tests: How to Use the Social Security Ruling for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Cognitive Testing
Many people report that cognitive testing was helpful for documenting issues with memory, focus, concentration and cognitive function.
This may also be called Neuropsychiatric Testing or Neuropsyhological Testing or Neurocognitive Testing. Here's the story of how Amaryllis Took a Cognitive Test. And here's how Iris Took a Cognitive Test

Tilt Table Tests
A tilt table test is a test used to document changes in blood pressure and heart rate for patients. Warning: Some people report that beta blockers or other medications can interfere with the test results. Here's how Iris Took a Tilt Table Test

Some people who cannot get a tilt table test, instead try the NASA Lean Test (a "poor man's tilt table test"). It does not require special equipment and any doctor can do it if they are willing. Some people have had success printing out the form and instructions, bringing it to their doctor, and requesting a special appointment to perform the test.

The CPET test is used by some people in disability claims. Sometimes this works out great, and sometimes people have regrets. There are two kinds of CPETS (one day and two day) and they are very different. Learn more about the pros and cons of the CPET.

Brain Scans
There are several different types of brain scans people have found helpful in documenting ME and related conditions: SPECT and xenon SPECT scans of the brain, MRI scans of the brain, PET scans of the brain and EEG/QEEG brain maps. The Hummingbird Foundation Testing for ME explains each of these tests. You can read the short explanations or the long explanations.

Blood work
There is no specific blood test that is widely recognized as accurately measuring CFS or ME. However, the links at the bottom of this page include blood tests and other types of medical tests that some patients and doctors have found helpful.

Tests from the Social Security Ruling
The Social Security Ruling for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome includes a list of tests that can be helpful for applying for disability. In addition, the ruling recognizes "any other laboratory findings consistent with medically-accepted clinical practice." So, any of the other tests on this page also has the potential to be helpful. This ruling is for disability applications in the US. Most other references on this page are international.

Related Conditions
If you think you may also have Lyme Disease, POTS, Fibromylagia or other conditions that are common in ME patients, please check out how to How to Collect Medical Evidence for Other Conditions

What Tests Helped?

Which of these tests helped people the most? Cort Johnson from Health Rising asked 800 people this question. Here is their list of Which Tests Helped the Most (click on "View results" to see what everyone answered).

What If My Tests Come Back "Normal"?

You are not alone. Many people with CFS and ME test "normal" on standard medical tests. How Come My Lab Tests All Say Nothing is Wrong?

What If I Can't Afford Tests?

In the US, check out How To Get On Medicaid Even if You Can’t Get On Medicaid and How to Get to the Doctor When You Can’t Afford the Doctor and How To Be Broke & Medicated

Lists of Tests

The Hummingbird Foundation website includes a: Short list of names of tests, plus a longer summary of each test, plus an even longer detailed explanation of each test.

The Myalgic Encephalomyelitis International Consensus Primer for Medical Practitioners includes a long list of tests. This booklet is written for doctors, so it's going to be difficult for us normal folks like us to understand.

A lists of tests is available on the website for the Treatment Center for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They also publish a longer guide explaining tests in more detail.

The IACFSME published an ME/CFS Primer for Clinical Practitioners that includes a long helpful list of tests.

Katherine T Owen has compiled an excellent list and explanation of various Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tests on her blog Healing CFS/ME (keep scrolling down, the list is in the middle of the page). Includes special information on laboratory testing in the UK.

The ME/CFS Roadmap for Testing and Treatment was created by an ME/CFS patient. It includes excellent information on testing and interpretation of test results.

The Nightingale Research Foundation Definition of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis includes a list of tests for ME, plus tests for related conditions that occur in ME patients.

Updated October 2017. Please share your comments and suggestions below. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.
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  1. New! Fancy! Updated! Different!

    Added info on tilt tables, brain scans, cpets, neuropsych testing, and a few other things.

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Very thorough! Thank you
Another winner from Kit Kat! As always - practical and thorough assistance - Lily's trademark :)
very useful!
Very thorough, practical guidance.
Kit Cat
Kit Cat
thank you :)

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