Pt 3 Possible risks and causes

30th April, 2017   |    By Bethwyn   |    5 min read

Hello and welcome to the third installment of a series on chronic fatigue syndrome!! Again, my name is Bethwyn and this time I’ll be talking about the possible causes and risk factors that can lead to a diagnosis of CFS.

I was originally going to mention some of the treatments available in this blog as well, but the information on causes and risk factors is just so convoluted and tangled, that I thought it best to try and unravel this before heading on to treatment options in the next blog.

Firstly, as with many other aspects of CFS (and some other chronic illnesses), the causes often differ between individuals. But the risk factors that have been identified seem to be relatively constant throughout the CFS population. These include:

  • Gender – females are much more likely to get/have CFS than males, in all age groups
  • Family History – kind of like diabetes in that if a family member in the past has had it, you’re more likely to have it too
  • Medical History – if you or your family members have some certain other conditions, it can put you at an increased risk of CFS and fibromyalgia (these include: irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, thyroid disease, mood disorders, chronic or persistent nasal problems, ear infections, hysterectomy, miscarriage, irregular menstrual cycle, ovarian cysts, mononucleosis/glandular fever, Epstein-Barr virus)
  • Recent Infection (more on this later)
  • Autoimmune Disease History – similar to your Medical History, but relating specifically to autoimmune diseases, which is basically a disease where your immune system goes a little haywire and starts attacking your own system instead of the viruses and germs and such (not fun!) (these include: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and lupus, among others)
  • Physical Injuries/Trauma – this one is a risk factor for both CFS and fibromyalgia, but is more commonly linked to fibromyalgia. Whiplash, especially, can lead to a diagnosis – something to do with the system feeling like it’s under attack or not healing properly can lead to more pain in other areas of the body
  • Hypermobile Joints – Hypermobile refers to unusual flexibility in any joints – like being able to bend your pinkie 90 degrees backward and such (some people find this awesome, I mostly find it freaks me out a bit..)
  • Toxic exposures – overexposure to toxins like pesticides or gasoline
  • Severe Life Stress
  • Recent Immunisations/Vaccinations
  • Some Medications/Drugs (accutane, buspar, cordarone, depo-provera, desyrel, epogen, ergamisol, lariam, lopressor, neupogen, NORVASC, parlodel, prinivil, procardia, procrit, prozac, raglan, tenormin, toprol, wellbutrin, xanax, zestril, zoloft). It’s important to remember that these drugs have only been associated with the onset of CFS, not completely linked to. So, just because you’ve had one of these drugs doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get CFS.

That’s quite a few risk factors to digest. But you do have to keep in mind that that’s all they are – risk factors. It’s not a given that if you have many (or all!) of these things that you’re going to have CFS. So please keep panic to a minimum if you can!

Okay, so causes. This is where that point above of a recent infection comes back into play. The thing is, a lot of those risk factors above can ultimately end up being a cause of CFS. But the main one that the research seems to centre in on is a recent infection – especially something similar to the flu or glandular fever. Many CFS sufferers can remember having the cold from hell before getting CFS – others can’t remember any such cause.

In terms of my own experience, I’ve had what turns out to be irritable bowel syndrome since I was about 11 years old (they only found out what it is in the last 12 months – that’s ten years of searching). I think that the IBS ultimately weakened my immune system quite a bit, and then I began to get other conditions, until finally my body just couldn’t take anymore and collapsed. This happened about two/three years ago now, and I’ve been trying to build everything up since. So, no specific time of onset for me, but infections seem to be what does it in many cases.

For a bit more info I recommend going here – emerge.

If you’d like a more detailed look into causes and risk factors, I recommend this book – Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You…That You Need To Know by Mary J. Shomon. This book is from 2004, so it’s a little bit dated, but so far it’s given me the most comprehensive and detailed look at causes and symptoms relating to CFS and fibromyalgia – which can be so helpful. I got a lot of info for this post from this book!

And that’s all folks! I’ll be back next time with a post on possible treatments! Thanks for reading!! J



Be sure to check out Bethwyn’s other stories on this topic.


Also check the related topics:  

Chronic illness

Add Your Story