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PM R. 2010 May;2(5):414-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2010.04.010.

Perspectives on fatigue from the study of chronic fatigue syndrome and related conditions.

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  • 1Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, The University of Michigan, 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48106, USA.


Fatigue is a symptom whose causes are protean and whose phenotype includes physical, mood, and behavioral components. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an illness that has strong biological underpinnings and no definite etiology. Diagnostic criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have helped classify CFS as an overlap of mood, behavioral, and biological components. These include the presence of fatigue for more than 6 months associated with a diminution of functional activity and somatic symptoms, and pain not attributable to a specific diagnosis or disease. Four of the following criteria need to be present: sore throat, impaired memory or cognition, unrefreshing sleep, postexertional fatigue, tender glands, aching stiff muscles, joint pain, and headaches. Many researchers have observed that CFS shares features in common with other somatic syndromes, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Correlations between inflammation and infection, augmented sensory processing, abnormalities of neurotransmitters, nerve growth factors, low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, abnormalities of homeostasis of the stress system, and autonomic dysfunction may be hallmarks of CFS. The relative contributions of each of these abnormalities to the profound fatigue associated with CFS need to be explored further to better evaluate and treat the syndrome.

Copyright (c) 2010 American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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