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What type of doctor is best for ME/CFS or for FM?

To understand what type of doctor is best suited for ME/CFS or FM, it is helpful to consider how doctors might have learned about the diagnosis and treatment of these illnesses. Lack of time may prevent the most well-intentioned doctors from staying abreast of the most significant research information and clinical guidelines on many illnesses.

As mentioned earlier, the worldwide number of physicians (some of whom are also involved in research) who could be considered to have true expertise in the diagnosis and management of ME/CFS is very limited. Periodically, some medical journals will publish information about ME/CFS or FM, but the depth to which these articles go or the random aspects brought up about these illnesses can vary greatly.

The number of doctors who are well informed about ME/CFS remains small. Many doctors are not well informed and this could greatly influence their approach to the illnesses.

Patients have had some success in getting diagnosed with ME/CFS by infectious disease specialists or neurologists, partially due to the type of abnormalities and dysfunction they might detect in various tests. It is not yet clear how much the newest diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS put forth in the report from the Institute of Medicine will improve doctors' general understanding. 

In the last few years, more doctors (especially rheumatologists) have become familiar with FM. Individuals who have FM have been usually diagnosed by rheumatologists mainly because the first standards for the classification of FM were created in 1990 by the American College of Rheumatology. Therefore, FM tends to be somewhat better recognized by doctors in this specialty, though there can be differences in their treatment approaches and the research or theories that any given rheumatologist may follow.

Other specialties that might be working with FM (in more recent years) are physiatrists (this is a branch of medicine that focuses on the patient's musculoskeletal system and spine, and uses physical therapy and some medications as primary treatments) and sometimes, pain management specialists (some are physiatrists, but usually they are anesthesiologists) can help with persistent, chronic pain. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has a summary on the diagnosis and treatment of FM but it is quite limited. Criteria for the classification of FM are further detailed in our Diagnosis of FM section.