Adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may experience endocrine changes, as well as differences in cellular signaling, according to a new study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine. May 12 is International Awareness Day for CFS. An estimated 1-2% of people worldwide have symptoms of CFS.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by exhaustion even when well-rested, difficulty with physical exertion, impaired concentration and memory, and metabolic issues. Because there is no test for CFS, doctors usually rely solely on symptoms. This approach, coupled with ignorance about CFS, means some people with CFS may go undiagnosed. Others may be accused of faking symptoms, or of having a mental health diagnosis. The latest study may undermine the stigma historically associated with CFS.
In 2015, the Institute of Medicine recommended changing CFS’s name to systemic exertion disorder. Some doctors also refer to chronic fatigue as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or CFS/ME.
Understanding Chronic Fatiguebrains of people with CFS.
Researchers recruited 120 people ages 12-18 with chronic fatigue and compared them to 68 people without CFS. They tracked physical activity with an accelerometer, monitored symptoms with a questionnaire, and measured levels of nine different hormones.
Compared to those without CFS, people with symptoms had differences in cellular signaling in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a brain region that plays a critical role in endocrine function. People with CFS also showed differences in the sympathetic adrenal medullary system, which regulates stress response, and in thyroid functioning.
The study’s authors say this data points to a potential cause for CFS. It also demonstrates that symptoms of CFS have clear biological underpinnings. More research could conclusively point to a cause of chronic fatigue.
- Further clues in the fight against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (2016, May 10). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/gu-fci051016.php
- Wyller, V. B., Vitelli, V., Sulheim, D., Fagermoen, E., Winger, A., Godang, K., & Bollerslev, J. (2016). Altered neuroendocrine control and association to clinical symptoms in adolescent chronic fatigue syndrome: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Translational Medicine, 14(121). doi:10.1186/s12967-016-0873-1
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