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Adrienne Dellwo

Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome an Autoimmune Disease?

By October 29, 2013

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Of the many things we don't know about chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), one is whether it's an autoimmune disease.

First, I want to be clear that autoimmunity is not the same as immune dysfunction. We know ME/CFS involves immune dysfunction - the immune system appears to be stuck in overdrive, either due to lingering pathogens or a damaged system. The chronic immune activation could be due to autoimmunity, but we don't yet know for sure.

ME/CFS also involves inflammation, which also could be due to autoimmunity, but may also be the result of several other features instead.

To get an understanding of these problems, what we know about them and their possible roles, see:

Do you believe your ME/CFS involves autoimmunity? Have you been treated for autoimmune disease? Leave your comments below!


October 29, 2013 at 8:53 am
(1) Jill says:

From my understanding people with rheumatoid arthritis often go into remission when they are pregnant. I have seen people with cfs also go into remission when pregnant. I think this may indicate an autoimmune component.

October 29, 2013 at 10:27 am
(2) Rachael says:

I would describe ME/CFS as a state of chronic immune system activation. The immune system is going at a frenzied rate, but it
seems to be specifically targeting things it deems non-self. A
non-stop attack against viruses, chemicals, bacterias, anything it
deems foreign is launched by the immune system of sufferers. This
constant onslaught of immune system fighters leave the person with
ME/CFS feeling as though they have a terrible flu-like illness
(nausea, chills, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, headache,
fatigue, insomnia etc).

With most autoimmune illnesses the immune system typically mounts an immune response against its own cells and body tissues. Misdirected immune responses are referred to as autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is a failure of the immune system to recognize its own constituent parts as “self”.

So, I would describe ME/CFS as a constant state of immune system arousal; a body that is on high alert to all things it deems foreign. Immune systems of people with ME/CFS simply do not shut off and remain on high alert. We have hypervigilant immune systems, that don’t know when to quit. And even though I refer to my case of ME/CFS as an autoimmune illness, whether, or not, this would be considered a true autoimmune illness, I’m not sure.

I also believe that you have to be born with innate up-regulated immunity to develop full-blown ME/CFS. There are many, many triggers that push the immune system of predisposed individuals into permanent overdrive.

October 29, 2013 at 11:52 am
(3) Victoria says:

You’re way, way behind the times like so many others. CFS was fully proven to be autoimmune in 2008 in replicated science by the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s expert federal (all US agencies) consultant. You can find the article on the website of the National CFIDS Foundation (www.ncf-net.org).


October 30, 2013 at 8:34 am
(4) Jill says:

What kind of doctor looks after autoimmune diseases? Are they trained in cfs?

October 30, 2013 at 11:37 am
(5) Rachael says:

Immune dysfunction sounds like my immune system is not capable of launching a suitable attack to eliminate pathogens. One thing I don’t believe about my illness ME/CFS is that my immune system is stuck in permanent overdrive because it can’t rid itself of a virus that is lurking/hiding somewhere in my body. Any virus that attempts to enter my body is quickly eliminated by my quick acting immune system. There’s absolutely nothing down-regulated about my immunity. But, do I have a damaged immune system? Yes, I do! I’m working with an immune system that doesn’t have a brake. It keeps sending out fighters long after the battle is over.

October 30, 2013 at 10:20 pm
(6) Christopher Williams says:

I have me/cries for more than a decade…I even had the betafuron(?-spell)injections. Ugh… have heard it has helped some, just made me sick.

Does anyone know how chemotherapy and cfids do…? I have chronic (again?)reoccurring melanoma and drs are talking about chemo after this fourth surgery..but no one knows how it works with cfids if at all which I suspect it will…

November 5, 2013 at 4:38 am
(7) Tony Mach says:

Let me play the defeatist and add my two cents: You should not trust what Maes and Morris write, however alluring it seems. My impression is that what they write would not survive a thorough review, and I fear that the image they paint is more wishful thinking and less relating to reality.

I think that the immune system is likely to be involved in ME/CFS diseases but I fear that the studies by Maes and Morris will never be able to shed light on that question, and instead muddy the waters with lots of “sciency” sounding lingo.

November 5, 2013 at 4:41 am
(8) Tony Mach says:

Oh, I forgot: Add Meirleir to that list. He is made from the same wood as Maes.

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