What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?Chronic fatigue syndrome—also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or systemic exertion intolerance disease—is a complex disorder. People with chronic fatigue syndrome experience extreme exhaustion for six months or longer that can’t be traced to a specific behavior or medical condition. The Institute of Medicine estimates that up to 2.5 million Americans may have chronic fatigue syndrome, and most are undiagnosed.

The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is not known. Many physicians and researchers theorize that a combination of factors may lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, such as:

Changes in the Immune System

Scientists believe that certain immune system changes are strongly linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. For example, chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by increased inflammation—an immune response. Excess production of cytokines by the immune system and weaker immune responses are also associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.

High Stress Levels

Many people with chronic fatigue syndrome report high levels of stress or anxiety prior to being diagnosed. Some patients also have low levels of cortisol—the “stress hormone” that helps regulate the immune system and reduces damaging inflammation.

In addition, some evidence suggests that certain environmental and genetic factors may play a role in chronic fatigue syndrome development, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

You may be surprised to learn that chronic fatigue syndrome can make you feel more than just tired. In addition to overwhelming fatigue that doesn’t seem to get better with rest, this disorder may cause:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent sore throat
  • Sleeping problems
  • Aches and pains
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms can combine to severely impact quality of life. For some patients, performing everyday tasks, socializing, going to work or even thinking critically can become extremely difficult.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment at Tufts Medical Center Community Care

Tufts Medical Center Community Care provides hope to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome through advanced and well-rounded treatment. Our team includes highly experienced neurologists who work hand-in-hand with rheumatologists, primary care physicians and other experts as necessary to rule out other causes of fatigue and help patients manage their symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life. And, as a clinical affiliate of Tufts Medical Center, our practice is equipped with the expertise and resources necessary to deliver the highest level of care.

If you would like to speak with a neurologist about chronic fatigue syndrome treatment or inquire about our referral process, contact Tufts Medical Center Community Care today. With multiple convenient locations throughout north suburban Boston and brief appointment wait times, we make it simple to speak with a specialist. Most health insurance plans are accepted at our practice.

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