ME – What everyone should know



• Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a potentially chronic illness experienced by around 200,000 people in the UK and 1 million in the USA. This makes the disease more prevalent than multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus and HIV infection

• The World Health Organization classifies ME as a disorder of the nervous system

• Symptoms include a profound, generalized loss of muscle power; pain that can be widespread or localized to muscles; a range of neurological or cognitive problems; and relapses or recurrences of the original systemic illness

• The exhaustion, extreme weakness and exacerbation of symptoms experienced by ME patients happens after quite moderate exercise, and can be delayed for hours or days

• ME also affects children and young people, and is the most important single cause of long term absence from school in Britain

• Most people with ME are unable to work to full capacity, and a significant number (between 10% and 25%) are effectively house- or bed-bound

• The cause of ME is still unknown, but many patients report a sudden, infectious onset to their illness

• ME has many different names – postviral fatigue syndrome, ME/CFS, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome etc. Yet, whatever the name, the quality of life of patients can be poor, and most endure long-term chronic illness

• ME also has a huge impact on the lives of families and carers – something that is often overlooked

There has been relatively little biomedical research into ME. A concerted global drive is needed to uncover the causes of ME and find effective treatments.

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