ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) also named CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is classified as a disease of the nervous system by the World Health Organisation. The cause of ME/CFS is still not fully understood and involves multiple factors such as preliminary infections, mitochondria dysfunction, gastrointestinal problems, nervous system dysfunction, physiological stress, hypoglycaemia, hormone imbalances and immune system dysfunction.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) states that the physical symptoms of M.E. can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and other chronic conditions. A recent study found that ME/CFS has a greater impact on functional status and well being than other similar chronic diseases. The emotional burden of ME/CFS also impacts carers as well as those living with ME/CFS.
Those affected by ME/CFS present with a complexity of symptoms including crushing exhaustion made worse by physical and mental activity, which is unrelieved by rest. The cardinal symptom of ME/CFS is Post-Exertional Neuroimmune Exhaustion (PENE) or Post Exertional Malaise (PEM).
Other symptoms can include:
- · cognitive problems
- · flu like symptoms
- · recurring sore throat
- · tender lymph nodes
- · muscle and/or joint pain
- · headaches
- · un-refreshing sleep
Symptoms are numerous and cover many bodily systems including physical and cognitive processes, the gastro-intestinal system, nervous system and immune system.
As symptoms are numerous and widespread an individual may not have all the symptoms associated with ME/CFS. Please see a detailed ME/CFS symptom list here, taken from the International Consensus Criteria.
At present there is no diagnostic test for ME/CFS. Diagnosis of ME/CFS is by exclusion. It is important that those suspecting they have the condition are fully tested to exclude other causes. Many diseases and biological processes create symptoms of fatigue or exhaustion so testing to exclude other illnesses is the first port of call for patient and practitioner.