Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): The Genetics Of The Condition
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyleitis, is an affliction with a wide array of physical and psychological symptoms. The most widespread symptom is extreme fatigue. CFS is sometimes also referred to as ME, for myalgia encephalomyleitis. Most people often refer to this condition as CFS/ ME.
The title song from the movie “The Secret” comes to mind. In the movie, there was a character who was constantly disoriented and had no sense of direction. The title song continues with the lyrics, “I am confused and tired / I can’t get anymore / I must get back to work / I feel weak”. These are all symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
While many people are experiencing fatigue on a daily basis, most are not experiencing significant discomfort. The symptoms of myalgic encephalomyleitis may vary but typically include frequent mild to severe pain, weakness, and loss of muscle or joint function. Common symptoms of CFS include muscular weakness, muscular pain and tenderness, loss of memory, and difficulty concentrating and processing information. Other symptoms that may occur in CFS include post-exertional malaise, or a state of post-exertional fatigue that occurs after exertion or a period of rest.
What causes fatigue? The cause of CFS has been linked to multiple factors, but none have been proven to be a direct cause. Most researchers agree that CFS is caused by an imbalance of proteins within the body. This is similar to the cause of post-exertional malaise, where muscle proteins (such as those in the brain and heart) become depleted due to lack of use. When these proteins deplete, it is likely for other proteins within the body to also decrease. Some researchers believe the breakdown of muscle protein in the brain (in the case of CFS) results in lower serotonin levels, and consequently higher levels of neurochemicals such as dopamine may be released.
How is fatigue syndrome diagnosed? Fatigue symptoms can be difficult to diagnose given its connotations: fatigued or tired, having a low energy level, and feelings of mild to moderate depression. However, fatigue is typically noted on a daily basis and can also be noted when attempting to perform physical tasks or cognitive function. It is important to rule out any other conditions that may be a potential cause of fatigue so that appropriate tests can be undertaken.
When testing for the above-mentioned illnesses, medical personnel will usually look for physical manifestations or characteristic of the illness, along with the lack of which in relation to fatigue symptoms. For instance, if there are high levels of beta blockers or sedatives in relation to chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, it is likely that a separate condition exists. Similarly, the lack of sleep may lead to higher levels of beta blockers or sedatives. If all other factors are ruled out, then a physician can conclude that one or more of the previously mentioned illnesses are the likely causes of the syndrome.