Association for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

All About ME Symptoms

ME is diagnosed based on its symptoms which, however, tend to vary significantly from one patient to another. The same counts for their severity. While some patients function more or less normally, requiring little or no medical treatment, others are having serious difficulties with even the simplest tasks such as brushing teeth even when on medications. However, there is one symptom that is common to all ME sufferers: persistent fatigue which doesn’t get better nor goes away after rest.

Mental and Physical Fatigue Which Can Seriously Affect the Patient’s Quality of Life and the Ability to Perform Everyday Tasks

The main ME symptom is persistent mental and physical fatigue which doesn’t have an obvious cause, gets worse with exercise and doesn’t improve with sleep or rest. The severity of ME-induced fatigue varies greatly. Some patients may still be able to perform their everyday activities including go to work/school, while others may not even be able to get out of bed. According to most patients, ME-induced fatigue is different from that caused by mental or physical wear-out. Also, it is often reported to be exhausting, both physically and mentally.

Other Common ME Symptoms

In addition to an unusually severe fatigue that appears without any obvious reason and doesn’t get better with rest, ME patients also report a wide range of other symptoms. Some of the most commonly reported ones include:

  • difficulties concentrating
  • loss of memory
  • headaches
  • sleep problems
  • sore throat
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain

It is possible to experience all or only some of the above mentioned symptoms. Also reported are other symptoms which, however, are less common. Examples include:

  • clouding of consciousness known as brain fog
  • stomach pain
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • increased sensitivity or allergy to some foods, noises, odours
  • night sweats
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • anxiety

Distinguishing ME from Other Conditions and Disorders

Extreme fatigue and other symptoms that are commonly reported by ME sufferers can also be caused by a number of other conditions and disorders such as depression, hypothyroidism, substance abuse, mononucleosis and sleep problems, to mention only a few. Since there are no specific tests and procedures to confirm ME, the condition is diagnosed based on the type of symptoms experienced by the patient and their duration, and at the same time, ruling out other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to ME. To be diagnosed with ME, a person must have the ‘classic’ symptoms of the condition for at least 4 months.