Chronic Fatigue Conditions Cause

A variety of conditions can cause chronic fatigue symptoms, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), mitochondrial disease and adrenal exhaustion. If your fatigue symptoms are debilitating and have lasted for several months, it may be time to consult your health care provider. She can work with you to possibly determine the root cause of your fatigue symptoms and help you develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts for six months or more. Sufferers often experience cognitive symptoms such as trouble concentrating, depression and short term memory loss, as well as physical symptoms such as joint pain, low grade fever and exhaustion after mild physical exertion.

CFS has been linked to viral infections, hormonal imbalances and circulation issues, but the cause has not been clinically determined. Your doctor will be able to evaluate you for chronic fatigue syndrome and recommend a course of action to help you cope with the symptoms.

Mitochondrial Disease

Mitochondria are tiny organelles in human cells that assist with cellular respiration. These organelles help your body to convert food into an energy form that your body’s cells can use. Mitochondrial disease can lead to problems with this conversion and cause dramatically decreased energy levels or chronic fatigue symptoms. Several types of mitochondrial disease exist, which can be caused by a viral infection or a mutation in the cells.

Treatment for mitochondrial disease is limited, but physical therapy and vitamins can help ease symptoms.

Adrenal Exhaustion

While not commonly recognized by traditional Western medicine, the concept of adrenal exhaustion is gaining ground in the alternative medicine community as a cause of chronic fatigue. Some researchers believe that high levels of chronic stress, continued poor nutrition and lack of proper rest impair the functioning of the adrenal glands, making them unable to produce certain hormones.

According to this theory, patients who suffer from adrenal exhaustion may experience physical or emotional burnout, get sick more easily and struggle with depression or insomnia. Treatment is holistic, combining diet, rest, exercise and vitamin supplements.

Sleep Disorders and Chronic Fatigue

Patients who suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, may also experience chronic fatigue symptoms. Insomnia is often characterized by broken, fitful sleep; sufferers may toss and turn all night and wake up feeling as if they haven’t slept at all. Some people with insomnia have trouble falling and staying asleep.

Patients who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing many times per night, wake up slightly, and then go back to sleep–often never realizing there’s a problem. If you sleep through the night, but wake up feeling like you haven’t rested, consider talking to your doctor about a sleep study. This test will catch any sleep disorders that you’re experiencing, so that you can begin treating them appropriately.

Chronic Fatigue and Hormonal Imbalances

The hormonal imbalances that women experience during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can lead to sleep disturbances. Fluctuating hormone levels can cause insomnia, night sweats and other sleep disturbances. If your sleep is disrupted on a regular basis, chronic fatigue symptoms may develop. If you feel that your hormone levels are disrupting your sleep cycle, consult your medical practitioner to see how she can help.


Bradshaw-Black, V. (2009). The Nutrition Maze: Nutritional Aspects of Adrenal Fatigue. Positive Health, (156), 1. Retrieved from Alt HealthWatch Database, August 27, 2010.

French, R. (2009). Adrenal Exhaustion. Natural Health