Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and the Immune System

chronic_fatigue_syndrome (CFS)Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by prolonged fatigue, diffuse pains, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, decreased ability to concentrate and depression of at least 6 months. Women between the ages of 30-40 years of age are most at risk to be diagnosed with CFS.

Patients CFS report excellent pre-illness health and a sudden onset of fatigue, with flu-like symptoms. The most common painful locations include the side of the neck, top of the shoulder blade, outside the hip joint, and inside the knee. Often included in a class of functional illness such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and temporomandibular joint disorder, the cause is not fully understood. Immune, psychiatric and neurological causes may be implicated in this disease.

The thymus gland plays a role in the progression of chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers have linked increased expression of CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and a decrease in natural killer cell function. This can be interpreted as a chronic low-level of immune system activation. Nonetheless, considerable ambiguity exists around the link between T-cells and chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally, viral infections and sleep disruption have been associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.

An, “alpha intrusion”, identified through polysomnography, has been link to non-REM sleep and less time spent in REM sleep and may be a factor in chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally, the pro-inflammatory states have been shown to produce symptoms in line with CFS. Nonetheless, CFS may mask a primary deficiency and is often found within a context of disturbances.