Differential diagnosis

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Differential diagnosis is the process which tries to make a correct diagnosis by excluding other diseases which can cause similar symptoms.

ME/CFS[edit | edit source]

Many diseases can cause similar symptoms to CFS / ME:

  • infectious diseases (such as Epstein–Barr virus, influenza, HIV infection, tuberculosis, Lyme disease)
  • neuroendocrine diseases (such as thyroiditis, Addison's disease, adrenal insufficiency, Cushing's disease)
  • hematologic diseases (such as occult malignancy, lymphoma)
  • rheumatologic diseases (such as fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, Sjögren's syndrome, giant-cell arteritis, polymyositis, dermatomyositis)
  • psychiatric diseases (such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, delusional disorders, dementia, anorexia/bulimia nervosa)
  • neuropsychologic diseases (such as obstructive sleep apnea, parkinsonism, multiple sclerosis)
  • others (such as nasal obstruction from allergies, sinusitis, anatomic obstruction, autoimmune diseases, some chronic illness, alcohol or substance abuse, pharmacologic side effects, heavy metal exposure and toxicity, marked body weight fluctuation)

However, if strict diagnostic criteria is used, misdiagnosing a patient suffering from the conditions above with CFS / ME is unlikely. There are however some diseases, which can mimic CFS / ME. Some presentations of these illnesses could meet even the most strict ME / CFS diagnostic criteria (ICC), resulting in patients being wrongly diagnosed with ME / CFS, whilst suffering from something else. These will be discussed in detail below.

Multiple Sclerosis[edit | edit source]

Neurological symptoms, such as POTS and dysautonomia are very common in CFS / ME patients, those same symptoms are common in M.S. as well. Furthermore M.S. can often present with fatigue and post exertional malaise. [1]

Spinal Stenosis[edit | edit source]

A case report of three patients, all having being diagnosed with ME / CFS and presenting with classic symptoms such as: PEM, POTS, sleep and cognitive problems, etc. found that all three had been misdiagnosed with ME / CFS. The real cause of their symptoms was spinal stenosis, which was compressing the spinal cord. After surgery all three patients recovered. One of the patients even went from house bound to working 12 hour shifts on a regular basis. Furthermore, one of the patients had a sudden onset, caused by a viral infection, a sign typically associated with ME / CFS. [2]

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension[edit | edit source]

There is a lot of overlap between symptoms of IIH and CFS / ME. Headache is a common complain of CFS / ME patients and is a classic symptom in IIH. A study of patients diagnosed with CFS / ME, where most of the participants had headache as a symptom found that 20% met the diagnostic criteria for intracranial hypertension. [3]

Chiari Malformation[edit | edit source]

Chiari malformation, is a structural deformity, where a part of the brain stem is out of its normal position. This disease can present with many neurologic symptoms that very similar to ME / CFS and should be excluded. Usually this is done via MRI scan. There was one report however of a missed Chiari problem, that was only visible in a MRI scan in the standing position.

Cranio-Cervical Instability[edit | edit source]

This is another structural problem, where the tendons that connect the base of the skull with the spinal cord are loose, causing brain stem compression, which in turn causes many neurologic symptoms similar to ME / CFS. Several anecdotal reports of complete recovery following CCI surgery have been posted on ME / CFS support forums. However it is yet to be determined how common this issue is with ME / CFS patients.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Differential Diagnosis". www.massmecfs.org. Retrieved Jun 4, 2019. 
  2. Edwards, Charles C.; Heinlein, Scott; Marden, Colleen L.; Rowe, Peter C. (Dec 1, 2018). "Improvement of severe myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms following surgical treatment of cervical spinal stenosis". Journal of Translational Medicine. 16 (1): 21. doi:10.1186/s12967-018-1397-7. ISSN 1479-5876. PMC 5796598Freely accessible. PMID 29391028. 
  3. Johnson, Cort (Feb 24, 2018). "Pressure Mounting: Is Fibromyalgia Caused By High Pressure in the Brain (Intracranial Hypertension)". Health Rising. Retrieved Jun 4, 2019. 

ME/CFS - An acronym that combines myalgic encephalomyelitis with chronic fatigue syndrome. Sometimes they are combined because people have trouble distinguishing one from the other. Sometimes they are combined because people see them as synonyms of each other.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) - A disease often marked by neurological symptoms, but fatigue is sometimes a symptom as well. Some diagnostic criteria distinguish it from chronic fatigue syndrome, while other diagnostic criteria consider it to be a synonym for chronic fatigue syndrome. A defining characteristic of ME is post-exertional malaise (PEM), or post-exertional neuroimmune exhaustion (PENE), which is a notable exacerbation of symptoms brought on by small exertions. PEM can last for days or weeks. Symptoms can include cognitive impairments, muscle pain (myalgia), trouble remaining upright (orthostatic intolerance), sleep abnormalities, and gastro-intestinal impairments, among others. An estimated 25% of those suffering from ME are housebound or bedbound. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies ME as a neurological disease.

Adverse reaction - Any unintended or unwanted response to the treatment under investigation in a clinical trial.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) - A form of orthostatic intolerance where the cardinal symptom is excessive tachycardia due to changing position (e.g. from lying down to sitting up).

Post-exertional malaise (PEM) - A notable exacerbation of symptoms brought on by small physical or cognitive exertions. PEM can last for days or weeks. Symptoms can include cognitive impairments, muscle pain (myalgia), trouble remaining upright (orthostatic intolerance), sleep abnormalities, and gastro-intestinal impairments, among others.

Post-exertional malaise (PEM) - A notable exacerbation of symptoms brought on by small physical or cognitive exertions. PEM can last for days or weeks. Symptoms can include cognitive impairments, muscle pain (myalgia), trouble remaining upright (orthostatic intolerance), sleep abnormalities, and gastro-intestinal impairments, among others.

The information provided at this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness.
From MEpedia, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of ME and CFS science and history.