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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Causes and Symptoms

General description

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that cannot be attributed to any pre-existing disease. Fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but does not improve with rest.

This condition is also known as “systemic stress intolerance disease” or “myalgia encephalomyelitis.” Sometimes “ME / CFS” is abbreviated.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories, ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe that chronic fatigue syndrome can be triggered by a combination of factors.

No individual test can confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may need a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. Treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome focuses on relieving symptoms.


Some of the signs and symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory or concentration loss
  • Sore throat
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
  • Joint or muscle pain without apparent cause
  • Headaches
  • Non-restful sleep
  • Extreme exhaustion that lasts more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise

When to see the doctor

Fatigue can be a symptom of different diseases, such as infections or psychological disorders. In general, see your doctor if you experience persistent or excessive fatigue


People who have chronic fatigue syndrome appear to be hypersensitive even to normal amounts of exercise and activity.

The reason why this occurs in some people and not in others is still unknown. Some people may be born with a predisposition to the disorder that is later triggered by a combination of factors. Possible triggers include:

Viral infections. Because some people develop chronic fatigue syndrome after having a viral infection, researchers wonder if it’s possible that viruses are causing the disorder. Suspicious viruses include Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6, and mouse leukemia viruses. A conclusive link has not yet been found.

Immune system problems. The immune system of people who have chronic fatigue syndrome appears to be mildly affected, but it is unclear whether this impairment is enough to effectively cause this disorder.

Hormonal imbalances. People with CFS sometimes also have abnormal blood levels of hormones that are produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary, or adrenal glands. But the importance of these abnormalities is still unknown.

Risk factors

Factors that can increase the risks of chronic fatigue syndrome are:

Age. Chronic fatigue syndrome can occur at any age, but it most often affects people between the ages of 40 and 50.

Sex. Women are diagnosed with CFS much more frequently than men, but perhaps this is simply because women are more likely to report their symptoms to a doctor.

Stress. Difficulty managing stress can contribute to the appearance of chronic fatigue syndrome.


Possible complications of chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Lifestyle restrictions
  • Increase in work absences

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