Approximately 15 to 30 million people worldwide suffer from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This condition is a relapsing-remitting neurological disease, which means that symptoms vary from day to day.
Among the symptoms of ME, the main one is extreme fatigue. Most patients feel extremely tired and are unable to do the things they once did. These symptoms include being unable to sleep, feeling fatigued after sleeping, and having pain in the muscles and joints. These can range from mild to severe. In addition, some people with the condition also have a sensitivity to light and sound. The condition can affect individuals of all ages, including children. Despite the lack of a cure, treatment can help improve the symptoms.
Many people with the condition have a hard time getting a proper diagnosis. Studies show that 90 percent of ME patients are misdiagnosed and are mistaken for other illnesses. This is why it takes a long time for a person with ME to get a proper diagnosis.
In order to diagnose ME, a doctor will use several diagnostic criteria. These can be a combination of symptoms and tests. The diagnosis is determined by excluding other illnesses that cause similar symptoms. Some of these criteria include post-exertional malaise, a global increase in symptoms after exertion, and cognitive overexertion.
The severity of a person’s symptoms will also have an effect on the way that they live their lives. A patient with moderate ME will have limited mobility, have poor sleep, and may no longer be able to work or study. On the other hand, a patient with severe ME will be bedridden, unable to perform daily tasks, and will require around the clock care. They may have to use a wheelchair or be tube fed.
While the exact causes of ME are unknown, it is believed that the condition is triggered by infection or a virus. However, researchers have found that gene activity plays a role as well. Other studies have discovered metabolic abnormalities in the body. This makes it difficult to accurately predict which people will have the condition, or how to treat it.
In order to manage symptoms, some of the treatments for ME involve lifestyle changes and adapting to a daily routine. For example, pacing is a method used by patients to match activity with energy levels. This helps them avoid crashes.
Another method of treating ME involves medications. Anti-sickness medication can be prescribed to prevent the disease from spreading. Some medicines can also reduce symptoms and help patients with ME improve their daily functioning. Other therapies can include dietary changes and exercise plans. Some doctors recommend cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which is a type of talking therapy that aims to teach patients how to change their behavior and adapt to their diagnosis.
The National Institutes of Health recently awarded three collaborative research centers to boost ME research. These organizations will serve as points of contact for medical providers specializing in the condition.