Criteria For the Diagnosis of ME
“I think I’m going crazy.” These words are uttered by many individuals when they are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disease that affects the body’s ability to function normally. The symptoms of this disease mimic those of diseases such as influenza or a common cold. Researchers believe that ME/SAD is caused by a disturbance in the individual’s immune system and how it reacts to stress or infection. ME/SAD shares some characteristics of other autoimmune diseases (frequently infections in which the immune system Attacks healthy cells in the body, such as in rheumatoid arthritis) which can result in extreme, long term disability.
ME/SAD is sometimes difficult to diagnose because it has no symptoms at all. The symptoms of ME/SAD include persistent muscle pain, fatigue and brain fog (a mental state in which the individual may be extremely tired and unable to concentrate). Common causes of this syndrome include chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), infectious mononucleosis ( MMR), major depression, multiple sclerosis and gluten intolerance. Scientists have conducted several studies on the role of genetics, gut bacteria and neurological processes in causing this syndrome.
The symptoms of ME/SAD are difficult to diagnose because these myopathic patients often present with a wide range of physical complaints, which can be similar or identical to those of other illnesses. Because of these many conditions, ME/SAD is often misdiagnosed as a co-morbid condition, meaning that the patient actually has a co-occurring medical illness. Due to these complex clinical criteria, the diagnostic tests used to identify ME/SAD have been difficult to establish. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to provide a definitive diagnosis for ME/SAD.
CFS is caused when the nerves, muscles and organs of the body are affected by pathogens that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. An example of a food borne pathogen is the infection of the roundworm heliocobacter pylori (which can cause roundworms); or if the organisms enter through a cuts or wounds in the body system, it can cause serious damage to the muscle, tissue or organs. Because CFS is directly related to the nervous system, healthcare providers are able to use X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans to better determine whether a patient has CFS. In addition, several blood tests are also helpful in determining the presence of CFS. Although, with these many different tests and medical methods available for the diagnosis of ME/SAD, it is important for patients and healthcare providers alike to be able to recognize the differences between the two.
Viral infections are also associated with ME/SAD. Because a viral infection is directly related to ME/SAD symptoms, healthcare providers have had some difficulty determining the relationship between ME and a viral illness. There is currently no known cure for any viral illnesses, including those that attack the central nervous system. However, with this said, there are some types of viral illnesses that tend to produce similar symptoms to those associated with ME. Some examples include: herpes, Epstein-Barr, Epstein-Laubcoids, Rubella, meningitis and encephalitis. Patients that experience severe symptoms of one of these illnesses should immediately see their health care provider to determine if it is a possible coincidence.
If the above mentioned illnesses are ruled out, the next step in the process of ME diagnosis is to eliminate other possible causes of ME. The three primary candidates for this diagnosis are: CFS, depression and CFS associated fatigue syndrome (CFSIDS). In addition to these potential candidates, ME can also be caused by anemia, kidney disease, vitamin deficiency, hypoglycemia, sensitization to stress, gluten intolerance, and drug toxicity. For many patients, there is no clear-cut diagnosis, which leaves the patient to search for other symptoms. Because many of these symptoms of ME mimic those of other illnesses, patients may go undiagnosed and untreated for months or even years, putting their long-term health at risk.