Association for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

All About ME

What is ME?

ME stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis, a medical condition marked by chronic fatigue. Also referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and some other names, the condition can be developed by anyone at any age but it tends to be most common in young adults. In the UK, about a quarter of a million of people suffer from ME.

Symptoms of ME

Symptoms of the condition may besides chronic fatigue also include muscle pain, memory or concentration difficulties, headaches, joint pain, sore throat and severe exhaustion, to mention only a few. ME symptoms can be mild and have little effect on the patient’s quality of life. But they can also be very severe and seriously interfere with the affected person’s daily activities. In the most extreme cases, ME can lead to paralysis and inability to eat, speak or even open the eyes. Nevertheless, the most characteristic for ME is fatigue which worsens with activity, no matter if being physical or mental, and doesn’t get better with rest.

What Causes ME and What are the Risk Factors?

Causes of ME are poorly understood. It is not exactly known what causes the condition but several possible triggers have been suggested. These include viral infections, immune system disorders, hormonal imbalance, stress and metal problems. As mentioned above, ME can be developed by anyone including children but it most often affects young adults aged between 20 and 45. The condition affects both men and women but it is slightly more common in women than in men. Genetic factors may also play a role which means that people who have ME in their family may be at increased risk of developing the condition.

How is ME Treated and Can It be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ME although some patients, especially children, recover completely. In the majority of cases, however, ME symptoms never go away entirely. If receiving prompt and proper treatment, the symptoms gradually improve but they tend to return from time to time.

Treatment of ME depends greatly from patient to patient, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms. The most commonly prescribed treatments may include one or more of the following:

  • psychotherapy, most often in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • physical therapy known as graded therapy
  • pacing
  • pain relievers
  • antidepressants, sleeping pills