The World Health Organization estimates that 15 to 30 million people around the world suffer from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a neurological disease that affects the immune and central nervous systems. It can have a profound impact on a person’s life, both physically and psychologically. There is no cure for the condition, but there are treatments that help to manage the symptoms.
ME can affect anyone. While it is more common among women, it can affect men as well. Symptoms vary from patient to patient, but generally include extreme tiredness, and a variety of physical and cognitive symptoms. They are often caused by a virus or infection. However, more research is needed to learn the full biology of the condition.
Among the most common symptoms of ME are extreme fatigue and post-exertional malaise. When these symptoms become so bad that a person can’t function normally, it’s time to seek medical attention. A doctor may prescribe antidepressants and other medications to help alleviate the symptoms. Other treatments include physiotherapy, and adapting daily routines and lifestyle.
Some symptoms of ME are not as noticeable as others. For example, a person with mild ME can be mobile and still work, while someone with moderate ME will have limited mobility and poor sleep. On the other hand, a person with severe ME can’t move from bed and needs constant care. He or she might develop pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or need tube feeding.
In addition to extreme fatigue and post-exertional muscle ache, patients may experience high levels of pain. Medications such as amitriptyline are effective in reducing muscle pain. People with long-term extreme pain may be referred to a pain clinic.
As with any condition, it takes time for a doctor to diagnose ME. A person’s symptoms can mimic many other conditions, so it can be difficult to make a diagnosis. If a doctor suspects that a patient has ME, he or she will need to perform tests to rule out other diseases. Generally, the best way to get a diagnosis is to see a specialist.
Although there is no known cause for the condition, research has suggested that some factors may increase a person’s risk. One of these is a gene activity difference in white blood cells. Another is female hormones. Also, some people have a genetic predisposition to the disease. Many specialists use tests to assist with a diagnosis.
The symptoms of ME can vary from person to person, and the treatment that is right for one person can’t be applied to another. Patients need to be aware of their personal limits and be willing to change their lifestyle. Using a pacing method can help a person to match activities to their energy level. This helps them avoid crashes.
Depending on the severity of the disease, patients can live in a home and need a caregiver to provide all their needs. Those with moderate ME will have limited mobility and can no longer work or study. Those with severe ME will spend most of their days in bed.