What are Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Causes?

Susan Grindstaff

Medical research has not yet clearly determined what causes chronic fatigue syndrome. Most research seems to suggest that a combination of various other illnesses may lead to the condition. Many members of the medical community believe that chronic fatigue syndrome may actually be a symptom of other underlying conditions, but are unable to explain why many times no other condition is found. Chronic fatigue syndrome remains in many ways a medical mystery. Some promising research points to genetics as a possible cause of the syndrome.

A woman with chronic fatigue syndrome.
A woman with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Genetic studies involving the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome found that the brains of patients who suffer from the condition typically produce less serotonin than is normal. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain believed to be linked to feelings of happiness, and may have some effect on sleep. People with lower levels of serotonin are sometimes more prone to depression, and depression can sometimes manifest itself in physical ways, not unlike some of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. In addition, low levels of serotonin may cause sleeplessness, which can also lead to symptoms of fatigue.

Chronic fatigue syndrome patients typically produce less serotonin than normal.
Chronic fatigue syndrome patients typically produce less serotonin than normal.

Many health care professionals believe that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by a viral infection. Chronic fatigue syndrome causes sufferers to feel continually tired and listless. In many cases, people with this condition wake up feeling tired. Many people who experience these symptoms show elevations in antibodies that are usually found when the body is attempting to fight off infection; however, often no underlying infection is discovered. This leads many researchers to conclude that if chronic fatigue syndrome is a symptom of a viral infection, the exact virus that triggers it has not yet been identified.

In addition to tiredness, sometimes chronic fatigue syndrome causes flu-like symptoms. These symptoms might include chills, muscle pain, and sore throat. In some patients, doctors find that chronic fatigue syndrome causes swollen lymph nodes and abdominal pain. The list of symptoms attributed to chronic fatigue syndrome is extensive, but because so many different patients seem to exhibit the same set of symptoms, it is generally recognized as a true medical condition.

In diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome, doctors first try to eliminate other illnesses or diseases. This is often an extensive process, because the syndrome shares so many symptoms that are common to other illnesses. Not only does the condition mimic infection, chronic fatigue syndrome causes symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, lupus, Lyme disease and many other autoimmune deficiency disorders.

Chronic fatigue syndrome causes symptoms similar to fibromyalgia.
Chronic fatigue syndrome causes symptoms similar to fibromyalgia.

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