Chronic Fatigue: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

He Chronic fatigue Is a sensation of chronic fatigue that does not refer to rest or sleep, and can be increased to very high levels when performing some type of activity, whether physical or mental.

The person with chronic fatigue has a state of constant fatigue that does not disappear when you go to bed to rest and recover energy, but it increases a lot more when you try to perform some activity.

Chronic fatigue girl

This disease often forces a significant reduction in the activity of the person as the tiredness appears without having to expose the body to any effort and does not return when resting.

Work activities seem practically impossible for a person with this disease, and social and domestic activities are also difficult in a notorious way.

In addition, constant fatigue experienced by the person with chronic tiredness is often accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness, memory impairment, or lack of concentration , Problems sleeping and muscle or joint pain.

Other physical problems, such as: pharyngitis or tonsillitis, sensitive lymph nodes, headaches, headaches, or febrile conditions may occur, although less commonly.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

The 15 symptoms that define this disease are the following:

  1. Fatigue or tiredness (after rest)

  2. Fatigue that limits the common activities of each day.

  3. Fatigue lasts more than 24 hours after exercise.

  4. Fatigue that worsens with intellectual and physical activity.

  5. Sensation of heaviness in arms and legs.

  6. Headache.

  7. February

  8. Sore throat.

  9. Hypotension.

  10. Difficulty to think clearly.

  11. Lack of memory, concentration and attention.

  12. Insomnia.

  13. Irritability.

  14. Depression.

  15. Inflammation Lymph nodes Lymphatics.


Remembering in bed

The first point to determine whether a person suffers chronic fatigue or not is to suffer for six months or more a state of extreme fatigue that does not return despite resting normally in bed.

The fatigue that suffers must interfere in the activity of the person. That is, it must impair the capacity to perform labor, social and domestic activities

In addition, this state of fatigue must be accompanied by other symptoms as described above: fever, muscle aches, joints or head, memory or attention problems, etc.

The diagnosis must be made by a doctor who will perform a series of tests to assess the presence of chronic fatigue:

1. There shall be a Detailed clinical history about the patient , Taking into account all the diseases that he has suffered, such as the onset of fatigue symptoms, his pathological family history, etc.

2. If Will evaluate your mental state L through a small test of cognitive performance (tests of memory, attention, reasoning, etc.).

3. They will be carried out Blood and urine tests To rule out possible organic factors that cause fatigue and fatigue.

4. Sometimes Psychological tests To assess whether feelings of fatigue are due to a particular affective state (such as depression).

5. They will be carried out Other tests Such as magnetic resonance imaging, immunological tests or single photon emission tomography, if it is necessary to rule out the possibility of the patient suffering from other diseases that are related to his fatigue state.

Thus, the diagnosis of chronic fatigue is performed on the one hand through the detection of typical symptoms of the disease and on the other hand, ruling out the possibility that the manifested symptoms are caused by a recognizable disease.

When both criteria are met, ie the typical symptoms of chronic fatigue are presented and no physical or psychological diseases that may be related to them are detected, a diagnosis of chronic fatigue can be made.

About us

A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) In 1993 it ruled that between 0.4 and 0.9% of older Americans receiving medical care had chronic fatigue.

However, a more recent study in the Seattle region showed that the incidence of this disease could be much higher (between 7.5 and 26% of people could suffer from chronic fatigue).

Another study conducted in the city of San Francisco obtained similar results: 20% of the population suffered chronic fatigue.

Thus, it seems evident that this is a disease that is suffered by many people around the world, indicating a special prevalence among women.

The age of onset of chronic fatigue is between 29 and 35 years, although there have also been cases in adolescents and young people under 25 years.

With regard to the evolution of the disease this is usually chronic but variable. There are patients who recover, being able to undertake their social and labor activities normally, but normally continue to experience some symptoms periodically.

In fact, according to a CDC study, it was noted that 31% of patients with chronic fatigue recovered during the first five years and 48% during the first 10 years.

In addition, chronic fatigue often witness multiple ups and downs, alternating periods of relative well-being and decreased fatigue with periods of extreme fatigue and inability to function.

Causes of Chronic Fatigue

Woman lying on couch

Discovering why chronic fatigue originates is one of the greatest enigmas in today's science, despite the many investigations that have been carried out.

What causes the feelings of fatigue and the symptoms that patients suffer from chronic fatigue? Why do you have this exhausting tiredness if you do not find any physical alterations that originate it?

Current research suggests that the disease would be formed through the conjunction of multiple causes, which, through triggering stimuli such as stress, infections or traumatic experiences, would be responsible for chronic fatigue.

Next we will comment on those factors that have been most related to the disease.

1. Infectious agents

At first it was thought that chronic fatigue could be caused by an infection of the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes mononucleosis) due to the similarity between both diseases.

However, several CDC studies have shown that there is no causal relationship between this virus and chronic fatigue, so it can not be assumed that this disease is caused by a viral infection.

However, it is not ruled out that this virus can play an important role in the development of chronic fatigue and, along with other factors, can cause the disease.

2. Immunology

Another line of research focuses on the immune system. It is postulated that suffering from alterations in the functioning of this system that protects our organism could increase the probability of suffering chronic fatigue.

At the moment the hypothesis that is defended is that to possess alterations in the immune system could be a risk factor in moments of stress or in viral infections, since the body could not respond adequately and could originate the disease of chronic fatigue.

3. Central nervous system

Numerous studies have shown that nervous system Of our brain is in charge of producing levels of physical and emotional stress, and releasing a series of hormones in the body.

Especially, in the face of stress, the brain performs a greater release of Cortisol , A hormone that could be related to the immune system and chronic fatigue disease.

4. Nutritional deficiency

Finally, because of the intolerance of many patients to certain substances found in foods, the possibility is posited that the lack of nutritional substances could be linked to chronic fatigue.

However, no scientific evidence has been published demonstrating that such a causal relationship is true.

Thus, the cause of chronic fatigue is unknown today, so it is understood that this is caused by the combination of these 4 factors we have discussed.


Young woman jumping

Currently there is no treatment that can cure this disease so that therapeutic interventions are designed to mitigate the intensity of symptoms to cause less discomfort.

On the one hand, prescription drugs can be used to reduce certain symptoms:

  1. Antidepressants Tricycles may Reduce insomnia And mitigate the intensity of pain.

  2. Anxiolytics Can be administered to those patients with chronic fatigue who have high levels of anxiety.

  3. Anti-inflammatories may be helpful in reducing fever and muscle or joint pain.

On the other hand, those treatments that improve the psychological state and lifestyle of the patient are especially important.

  1. The psychotherapy Reduces the tension that leads to chronic fatigue , Reduce emotional stress Which may be associated with the disease, and to combat those symptoms of anxiety and depression that can arise frequently in this type of disorders.

  1. Physical activity : Moderate but constant physical activity is important. Physical and mental efforts should be avoided that may increase fatigue but at the same time a minimum level of activity should be maintained to avoid physical problems and to accustom the body to movement.

  1. Healthy diet : It is also important to take care of the body through a healthy diet, to avoid very copious meals and to provide the body with all those nutrients it needs.

Is it the same as Fibromyalgia?

Tired man in bus

The Fibromyalgia And chronic tiredness share many symptoms and are two very similar diseases, however, are two different types of alterations, so when we talk about chronic fatigue we are not talking about fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic rheumatic disease in which sufferers suffer from symptoms such as body stiffness on rising, increased head and face pain, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, mental slowness, intestinal problems and tingling in the extremities.

As we see, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue have a number of common symptoms:

  • Insomnia

  • Headaches

  • Depression

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty thinking

  • Pain in the joints.

However, each disease has a series of own characteristics that allow to differentiate one from the other. These are:

  • Starting age: Fibromyalgia usually starts between 45 and 55 years old, chronic fatigue much earlier, between 29 and 35.

  • Exercise: As we have said, in chronic fatigue the state of fatigue worsens when exercise is performed, in fibromyalgia instead, it improves.

  • Fatigue: The fatigue that is present in the chronic fatigue is strenuous whereas the one that appears in fibromyalgia is not.

  • Fever: Chronic fatigue can cause fever in the usual way, fibromyalgia does not.

  • Sore throat: In chronic fatigue there are usually sore throats which does not happen in fibromyalgia. In addition, the person with chronic fatigue usually runs out when talking, which also does not have the person with fibromyalgia.

  • Break: The fatigue witnessed in fibromyalgia is relieved through the hours of sleep, so that the person can regain energy in bed. In the case of chronic fatigue this does not happen.

Thus, although both diseases resemble each other and are based on the presence of fatigue without an apparent physical cause, chronic fatigue is not the same as fibromyalgia.


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  3. Jason, L.A. Fennell, P.A., and Taylor, R.R. (Eds.) (2003). Handbook of chronic fatigue syndrome. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
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