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Tired? Your Spark Plugs May Be Misfiring

Breakdown in stress management system linked to chronic fatigue syndrome

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 4, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- A breakdown in the system that helps the body respond to stress may play a role in chronic fatigue syndrome, says a study in the November/December issue of Psychosomatic Medicine journal.

The research shows that subtle changes in a hormonal stress response system called the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis could be a factor in chronic fatigue syndrome.

The HPA axis uses three hormones to help the body remain stable during physiological and psychological stress. The hypothalamus secretes a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete a second hormone, which then prompts the adrenal gland to produce cortisol.

A problem anywhere along that chain can result in a variety of diseases, and that may include chronic fatigue syndrome, the researchers say.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome experience debilitating fatigue and may also have muscle aches, low-grade fever and sleep disturbances.

This study included about 40 people between the ages of 30 and 50. Half of them suffered from chronic fatigue and the other half were healthy. All the study participants filled out questionnaires that measured fatigue, depression and coping skills.

The participants were given stress tests and then had blood, cardiovascular and saliva tests to check on their HPA axis.

The study found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome had significantly lower response levels of one of the HPA hormones called ACTH before and during the stress tests.

More Information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about chronic fatigue syndrome.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Nov. 25, 2002
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