According to a new study researchers observe that stress hormones may be disregulated in people with chronic fatigue. The HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis is a hormonal system that helps the body deal with physical and psychological stress. The end result is the production of the stress hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands.
Chronic fatigue is characterized by aches, pains and overwhelming tiredness. It's cause is not well understood, but some patients do improve on hydrocortisone, which is closely related to cortisol.
Researchers in Germany and Switzerland have studied a group of patients with chronic fatigue and a control group. They subjected them to hormone tests during physical and psychological stress testing. Those with chronic fatigue were found to have lower than normal levels of ACTH, a hormone preceding cortisol in the HPA axis. This suggests a fruitful approach in the search for the cause of chronic fatigue. It may also explain why hydrocortisone causes some improvement - it may restore the balance to the HPA axis.