What Are The Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The name “chronic fatigue syndrome” (CFS) is misleading; it sounds like prolonged fatigue. And while it is that, in part, it goes much deeper – so much so, in fact, that a federal advisory committee has moved to add “myalgic encephalopathy” to the name (ME-CFS).
With actual CFS, the fatigue lasts for at least six months, and in addition, there are a number of other symptoms (at least four) that must have occurred regularly, starting after the initial onset of fatigue and also continuing for six months or longer. These symptoms include:
- Significant memory loss, distraction, and/or confusion
- Sore throat
- Tenderness, especially in the lymph nodes in the armpits or neck
- Joint pain (without swelling or redness)
- Muscle pain
- Headaches that differ from what you usually experience
- Continued exhaustion after sleep
- Excess fatigue after normal activity or exercise
Who Is At Risk of Getting This Condition?
While many other diseases and conditions have similar symptoms, estimates are that CFS affects about four out of every thousand people (and many people go undiagnosed). If you already have some of the symptoms and are trying to see if you actually have CFS, read the following risk factor statements, and see if any apply to you:
- I am between the ages of 40 and 50.
- I am a woman.
- I am clinically depressed.
- I lead a very stressful lifestyle.
- I have fibromyalgia.
- I have chronic headaches.
- I have trouble sleeping.
5 Possible Causes for CFS
While none the risk factors above are considered the cause for CFS (nor do they guarantee you have it), they are commonly seen alongside the other CFS symptoms.
As for a cause, doctors still don’t have a conclusive answer. Blood work and brain scans cannot show that you do or don’t have it. This makes CFS difficult to diagnose; it is more of a process of elimination, and sometimes, even if the symptoms don’t all add up, doctors will treat for CFS, anyway.
When several of the five possible causes below happen at once, doctors believe that CFS develops.
- Viral Sickness – approximately 80% of people who suffer from CFS believe it is just the flu at first.
- Defective Genes – from defects in the immune system to how people handle stress to how bodies deal with infection, all have been linked to CFS.
- Abnormalities in Brain – including imbalanced hormones and disrupted sleep cycles.
- Immune Problems – from the extremes of overactive to underactive immune systems.
- Psychological Problems – unlikely to be the main cause, these are present in many patients and can aggravate the syndrome – or be an effect of it, as well.
As varied as these causes are, treatments can differ widely, too, from therapy to a change of diet, to a prescribed antidepressant. With the proper doctor’s care, you may not be guaranteed a full recovery, but you could feel enough improvement to be able to go back to work and continue activities you once enjoyed.