Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), described in the medical literature since 1938, is characterized by distinctive muscular symptoms, neurological symptoms, and signs of circulatory impairment. The only mandatory feature of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), introduced in 1988 and redefined in 1994, is chronic fatigue, which should be accompanied by at least four or more out of eight “additional” symptoms. The use of the abstract, polythetic criteria of CFS, which define a heterogeneous patient population, and self-report has hampered both scientific progress and accurate diagnosis. To resolve the “diagnostic impasse” the Institute of Medicine proposes that a new clinical entity, systemic exercise intolerance disease (SEID), should replace the clinical entities ME and CFS. However, adopting SEID and its defining symptoms, does not resolve methodological and diagnostic issues. Firstly, a new diagnostic entity cannot replace two distinct, partially overlapping, clinical entities such as ME and CFS. Secondly, due to the nature of the diagnostic criteria, the employment of self-report, and the lack of criteria to exclude patients with other conditions, the SEID criteria seem to select an even more heterogeneous patient population, causing additional diagnostic confusion. This article discusses methodological and diagnostic issues related to SEID and proposes a methodological solution for the current “diagnostic impasse”.
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