The 1994 case definition of chronic fatigue syndrome is widely used not only for diagnosis but also for clinical and laboratory-based observations of this clinical entity. The criteria for the 1994 case definition are based primarily on symptoms and not on physical signs or chemical or immunological tests. This situation has resulted in conflicting clinical and laboratory observations that in all likelihood is due to different populations of patients being studied in different centers. Based on some of the recent publications, there appears to be an emerging picture of this disease entity that we propose could be used to subgroup chronic fatigue syndrome into four different subclasses. These subclasses would consist of chronic fatigue with primarily nervous system disorders such as impaired memory or concentration and headache, chronic fatigue with primarily endocrine system disorders such as unrefreshing sleep and postexertional malaise, chronic fatigue with musculoskeletal system disorders such as muscle pain and joint pain, and chronic fatigue with immune system/infectious disorders such as sore throat and tender lymph nodes. It is suggested that if clinical and laboratory-based studies on chronic fatigue syndrome were conducted on more homogeneous subgroups of patients, the data from one center to the other might not be as conflicting and more insights can be shed on the nature of this clinical condition.
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