Understanding Some Of The Causes Of Fatigue

2011-08-04 | |
Last updated: 2011-08-04

Immune System Behavior and Fatigue

Returning again to more complex causes of fatigue, research has found several relationships between immune system health and fatigue. In 2008 research from the University of Los Angeles, researchers studying breast cancer survivors found that those suffering fatigue had 30% higher levels of inflammation causing proteins in their blood than those who did not suffer fatigue.

In subsequent related research from the University of South Carolina in 2009, researchers found that reducing the numbers of these proteins in the brain reduced levels of fatigue. By selectively killing the specific immune system white blood cells responsible for creating these proteins in rats, the rats were less susceptible to becoming fatigued.

Other related research from the University of Manchester has also found relationships between immune system operation and fatigue. In this research, the scientists caused inflammation in the livers of mice. This resulted in the liver producing immune system activating chemicals. It also increased the numbers of a specific type of white blood cell. When these blood cells entered the brain, the mice would normally behave in a fatigued manner. However, when the researchers blocked these cells from entering the brain, the symptoms of fatigue were reduced. Specifically the mice became more mobile and increased their levels of social interaction.

What all of these findings suggest is that the immune system affects the way in which the brain functions. The changes that the immune system cause to the brain lead to the feelings of fatigue that are commonly expressed by people suffered from poorly functioning immune systems.


Although fatigue is still an under treated symptom that is not well understood, medical science is gaining knowledge regarding the causes of fatigue. Rather than being associated with purely psychological factors, fatigue is now being linked to chemical changes in the body that affect the way the brain operates. Pain, chronically interrupted sleep and immune system issues can all lead to debilitating fatigue. We can only hope that progress in understanding fatigue continues rapidly so those living with it may one day feel rested.

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Category: General Health, Medical Research, Symptom Information

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