There are numerous ways to describe ME. The first is to imagine your body as a cell phone. You charge your cell phone before bed and wake up refreshed, energized, and ready for the day. However, the battery in an ME patient’s body is depleted and old. Because they do not receive a full charge, they may experience significant energy loss and may be bedbound for days. The second method involves understanding your symptoms and the biological abnormalities that lead to ME.
The National Institutes of Health have recently funded three collaborative research centers to speed the discovery of new treatments for ME. Two of these centers are located in New York State, at Cornell University and Columbia University. Additionally, the organizations listed below may provide support and help in locating medical professionals who specialize in treating ME. In addition, the #MEAction organization is a network of ME patients fighting for health equity. The CDC has provided a list of resources for people suffering from ME.
There is no definitive cause of ME, but many researchers have concluded that it has a genetic component. The immune system is altered in ME/CFS, resulting in chronic activation of the disease. A dysregulated stress response system also affects the immune system, causing increased inflammation. Energy production in the body also changes, depleting the body. ME/CFS is genetic and runs in families, although the exact genes responsible are still unknown. A flu-like illness or stressor can trigger the symptoms of ME.
There is currently no cure for ME/CFS, but a treatment plan aimed at reducing symptoms is available. The CDC website on ME/CFS outlines the benefits of exercise and physical activity, and provides a symptom-reduction approach. The most common treatment is rest, but it should not be the only option for a treatment plan. For those who have limited energy, pacing techniques may be helpful. When rest is not an option, seek help.
In the UK, most doctors acknowledge that ME/CFS is a chronic condition, and they can prescribe a treatment plan based on their specific diagnosis. There is a brochure available for doctors and healthcare professionals in the UK. ME is a widespread condition, and most sufferers cannot work due to their symptoms. The World Health Organisation has classified ME as a neurological condition, and around 15-30 million people live with ME/CFS. This disease affects people of all ages and social backgrounds.
The prevalence of ME/CFS varies, but researchers believe it is at least 2 per thousand adults. The actual prevalence rate is closer to four. Thus, a general practitioner may see as many as 40 cases of ME/CFS in a 10,000 patient practice. The prevalence rate may be higher, however, due to the difficulty of defining the exact symptoms of the illness. But despite the prevalence of ME/CFS, researchers continue to work to understand the cause of the condition and find effective treatments for those suffering with it.
Although the exact cause of ME/CFS is unknown, researchers have found that certain factors trigger the symptoms and lead to the onset of ME/CFS in some people. Researchers have also identified several subgroups of people with ME/CFS, which need further investigation. Sometimes the symptoms will come and go, with or without a trigger. Researchers are trying to discover the cause of ME/CFS and develop diagnostic tests that will allow them to diagnose the illness.