What Makes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome More Likely?

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on November 28, 2022
2 min read

Anyone can get myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes it, but they believe certain people might be at greater risk.

If you think you may have it or are concerned that you could be at risk, check with your doctor.

If you’re a woman, you’re four times more likely to get ME/CFS than men. The condition is rare in children, but girls are more likely to develop it than boys.

The illness most often begins in adults aged 30-50. With teenagers, those between 13 and 15 seem to have it most often.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome ME/CFS can run in families. It’s possible that some people inherit a risk for it from one of their parents, such as inheriting a defect in how a particular gene is built.

Probably more important than how genes are built is whether genes are turned on or off properly—differences in gene activity. In people with ME/CFS, within white blood cells and other parts of the body, there are differences in gene activity. For example, several studies have found that genes important in activating the immune system are more likely to be turned on in people with ME/CFS.

Most diseases are determined both by how genes are built and by things in the environment—infectious organisms, toxins, diet, stress, exercise patterns, etc.  This may well be true in ME/CFS, as well.

People with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome might be more likely to also have some of the following conditions:

It’s possible that having one of these conditions could raise your risk for ME/CFS. Or it could be the other way around. So far, researchers don’t completely understand the relationship between Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and these other health problems.