Myalgic Encephalomyelitis


A person’s personality is defined by their environment and the company they keep. The people they surround themselves with are a reflection of them, and for that reason it is often said that you can judge a person by the company they keep. The people you associate with influence your mood and outlook on life, which is why it is important to choose your friends wisely. Having supportive, understanding friends can help you feel better about yourself, even when you are struggling with chronic illness.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME, is a debilitating neuroimmune disease with no known cause and no cure. The disorder causes debilitating fatigue that worsens with activity and cannot be explained by other conditions such as depression or anxiety. Patients report unrefreshing sleep and neurological symptoms including memory and cognitive impairment. ME/CFS is also called chronic fatigue syndrome, functional somatic syndrome, systemic exertion intolerance disease, and post-viral fatigue syndrome.

ME/CFS is a complex and chronic disease that affects every aspect of a person’s life. It is estimated that 1 million Americans have ME/CFS and it’s one of the most underfunded diseases in our country. The Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association was founded in 1985 and is the oldest advocacy organization for ME/CFS in the United States.

Although no laboratory test can diagnose ME/CFS, some research shows consistent biological abnormalities in ME patients. These findings suggest that the disease is caused by an infection with viral, bacterial or parasitic pathogens.

While no specific pathogen has been found, researchers have studied the possibility that herpesviruses, enteroviruses, Q fever (caused by Coxiella burnetii) and Ross River virus can trigger ME/CFS in some individuals.

Research is ongoing to understand what triggers ME/CFS and why it happens in some people but not others. Unlike many other chronic illnesses, ME/CFS does not improve with treatment and is often made worse by stress.

If you think you might have ME/CFS, see your GP for a referral to a specialist. A correct diagnosis is essential, as it’s very common for people with ME/CFS to be misdiagnosed. Other illnesses that have similar symptoms are sometimes confused with ME/CFS, so your GP will need to do a thorough medical history and consider all of your symptoms. They should also exclude other conditions that could cause them. A good reference for a ME/CFS diagnosis is the International Consensus Criteria. This is a set of five diagnostic criteria developed by experts to guide physicians in making a diagnosis of ME/CFS. You may also wish to consult the Canadian Consensus Criteria.