Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)

 

Overview

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is characterized by overwhelming tiredness that is not improved by rest. Those with the condition suffer from fatigue that is so severe it inhibits them from performing daily activities. Cognitive and sleep issues are also common in ME/CFS patients. Due to its similar appearance to other illnesses, diagnosis is challenging. ME/CFS/ME is chronic and sometimes unpredictable, with symptoms and severity fluctuating over time. 

Presently, the causes of ME/CFS are unknown. There are no laboratory tests specifically designed to diagnose the condition, nor are there cures available. Symptom management is the current care strategy for most patients.

Common Symptoms

Patients must exhibit three primary symptoms before being diagnosed with ME/CFS:

  • severe fatigue that lasts six months or longer
  • post-exertional malaise (a worsening of symptoms that occurs after mental or physical exertion)
  • sleep problems

Typically, memory issues or orthostatic intolerance (exacerbation of symptoms when standing upright) are also included in the diagnostic criteria. 

Other symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, tender lymph nodes in the neck/armpits, recurring sore throat, digestive problems, chills and night sweats, allergies, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and sensitivity to food, odors, noise, light, or chemicals.

Coexisting Diseases and Conditions

Irritable bowel syndrome, depression, sleep disorders, fibromyalgia, anxiety, chronic pelvic pain, orthostatic intolerance, interstitial cystitis, and temporomandibular joint disorder.

Risk Factors and Prevalence

Anyone can develop ME/CFS, but it is most frequently found in people between the ages of 20-45. Females tend to be more commonly affected than males. Although previously thought to be more prevalent in white populations, more recent data suggests that people of color are the most likely to suffer from ME/CFS. There is also a suspected genetic component to the disease. 

Additionally, viral infections, immune system problems, hormonal imbalances, and physical/emotional trauma are being studied as potential triggers for ME/CFS.

Sources

  1. Article Sources and Footnotes
    1. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME). (2017, October 20). Nhs.Uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs/

    2. Chronic fatigue syndrome—Symptoms and causes. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 15, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490

    3. Symptoms and Diagnosis of ME/CFS | Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) | CDC. (2019, June 26). https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/symptoms-diagnosis/index.html

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