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A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing CFS. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for developing CFS may include:

Sedentary Lifestyle

High levels of physical activity were associated with a lower risk of CFS.

Gulf War Veterans

Veterans who served in the gulf war have a higher risk of CFS than their counterparts who were not deployed.

Gender

CFS is diagnosed one and half times more often in women than in men. This may be due to biological, psychological, and/or social influences.

However, an increasingly diverse patient group seems to be emerging as more doctors recognize CFS as a real medical disorder.

Age

CFS is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 50. It can develop in people of all age groups, including teenagers and young children.

Personality Factors

Some research suggests that people who are highly active and achievement-oriented may be more at risk for developing CFS. However, perhaps this personality type increases the risk only after exposure to new mental stress or viral infections.

Other Possible Factors

Early abuse, trauma, or family problems may be associated with the development of chronic fatigue later in life.

It has been suggested that exposure to certain viral infections may be responsible for the development of chronic fatigue syndrome. However, in carefully done research studies, this has not been the case.

References:

Chronic fatigue syndrome causes and risk factors. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/causes-risk-factors.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed December 13, 2013.

Causes of chronic fatigue syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/causes/index.html. Updated May 14, 2012. Accessed December 13, 2013.

Chronic fatigue syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 3, 2013. Accessed December 13, 2013.

Devanur LD, Kerr JR. Chronic fatigue syndrome. J Clin Virol. 2006;37:139-150.

Prins JB, van der Meer JW, et al. Chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet. 2006;367:346-355.

Working Group of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Chronic fatigue syndrome. Clinical practice guidelines—2002. Med J Aust. 2002;176 Suppl:S23-S56..



Last reviewed December 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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