Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), also referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is a chronic, complicated disorder whose primary feature is extreme, seemingly unexplainable fatigue. The illness may also be commonly abbreviated as ME/CFS. The characterizing fatigue can worsen after physical and mental activity, but does not improve with rest. This fatigue seriously hinders the person’s ability to do normal tasks that were not a problem before getting sick. It can lead to serious lifestyle restrictions and make it difficult for patients to maintain a job.
ME/CFS can affect people of all ages and sexes, but it is most common in people between 30 and 50, and affects women more often than men. It is believed that ME/CFS is very underdiagnosed due to lack of education about the illness as well as limited access to healthcare.
What are the symptoms of ME/CFS?
The severity of symptoms can fluctuate with time, some symptoms will come and go, and not every individual will have all the symptoms listed below. They include:
- Intense fatigue that isn’t helped by rest
- Inability to do simple activities (taking a shower, cooking, doing laundry) that were once doable, because of the fatigue
- Worsening of symptoms after an activity that wouldn’t have been a problem before getting sick
- Very low stamina
- Being confined to bed
- Problems with thinking and concentrating that might feel like a “brain fog”
- Blurred vision
- Sleep problems
- Worsened symptoms when standing or sitting up
- Pain in muscles and/or joints
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and/or armpits
- Bowel dysfunction
What causes ME/CFS?
While there are many theories, the specific cause of ME/CFS is currently unknown. Some theories include triggers like viral infections, hormone imbalances, immune system problems, and genetics.
How is ME/CFS diagnosed?
There is no specific test used to diagnose ME/CFS. Doctors must consider the diagnosis based on a thorough examination of a patient’s symptoms and medical history. They should ask questions that compare patients’ current abilities and lifestyle to theirs before they got sick. Since fatigue is a common symptom in many illnesses, it may take a while to rule everything else out.
What are the treatments for ME/CFS?
ME/CFS treatment focuses on lessening whatever symptoms may appear. It includes:
- Avoiding overexertion
- Establishing good sleep habits
- Pain management
- Physical therapy focusing on forming a plan of what exercises are best for the patient
- Cognitive therapy
- Low doses of antidepressants
- Changes in diet