Chronic Fatigue Conditions Cause Syndrome

Diagram of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by profound fatigue lasting more than six months. CFS is different from physical exhaustion, in that bed rest does not improve energy levels. In addition, physical and mental activity usually worsens the fatigue. Symptoms such as muscle weakness and pain, impaired mental ability, insomnia and a sore throat are common in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

Possible Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Researchers haven’t pinpointed an exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. For years, doctors believed CFS to be a result of the same virus that causes mononucleosis–the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)–but many people diagnosed with CFS do not have evidence of an active EBV infection. So, chronic fatigue syndrome can likely be caused by a number of underlying medical conditions. Possible causes of chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • Dietary deficiencies: Low levels of L-carnitine and acetyl L-carnitine are common in CFS patients. Dietary changes and supplementation may improve symptoms.
  • Environmental toxins: Some research points to environmental contamination as the cause of CFS symptoms.
  • Mitochondrial disease: Defective mitochondria can result in a variety of disorders characterized by feelings of persistent exhaustion.
  • Neuroendocrine dysfunction: Ion channels responsible for the process of conduction between the hypothalamus (responsible for hormone regulation) and the brain stem are often abnormal in CFS patients. A correlation may exist between these abnormalities, impaired blood flow and regenerative functions in the body.
  • Reduced blood flow: Patients with CFS may suffer from a lack of blood flow throughout their bodies due to a variety of conditions. This poor circulation can cause feelings of fatigue unrelated to sleep.
  • Stress: While it is clear that emotional and physical stresses do amplify chronic fatigue symptoms, no biological evidence supports either as causes of chronic fatigue syndrome. Tests done on CFS and depression patients show differences in neurological functioning and body chemistry that exclude a relation between the two.
  • Viruses: Many CFS patients have a history of a viral illness before the onset of their fatigue symptoms. Research continues to draw connections between CFS and patients infected with different strains of herpes, enteroviruses or retroviruses. CFS could be a reaction and biological breakdown in the immune system after infection with these relatively common viruses.

Treatment for chronic fatigue depends on the underlying condition. Visiting your doctor for an evaluation of your chronic fatigue symptoms is the first step toward getting to the root of the problem.

Resources

Maupin, C. (n.d.). Dr. Les Simpson: Rethinking the pathogenesis of CFS. Retrieved August 29, 2010, from http://www.cfidsreport.com/Articles/researchers/lessimpson.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Chronic fatigue: Symptoms. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/DS00395/DSECTION=symptoms

University of Michigan Health System. (2008). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from http://health.med.umich.edu/healthcontent.cfm?xyzpdqabc=0