What is CFS/ME?
- Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME)
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
- Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS)
- Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)
Different names have been used for this potentially chronic and debilitating condition which it is estimated currently affects some 250,000 people in Britain. Anyone can be affected although it has been found that women are more vulnerable to it than men by a ratio of 3:1, and the majority of people develop the condition between the end of their teenage years and their mid-forties.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued specific guidelines about diagnosis and management.
The diagnosis of CFS/ME/PVFS/CFIDS should only be determined by a qualified medical professional.
In many cases, onset is linked to a viral infection. Other triggers may include an operation or an accident, although some people experience a slow, insidious onset.
The most common symptoms are:
- Severe and debilitating fatigue
- Malaise following mental or physical activity
- Muscle and joint pain
- Short term memory loss
- Immune system impaired, sore throats, enlarged glands, headaches, temperature control and flu like symptoms
- Palpitations & sweating
- Features of depression and anxiety
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances, alcohol intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome
The condition has an individual element; both mainstream and complementary medicine can provide relief from symptoms, and help with improving your health and wellbeing.
Effects of ME
The range and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person:
- for some the effects may be minimal e.g. you may be able to care for yourself, needing days off work to rest
- for others the effects may be moderate e.g. you may have reduced mobility and disturbed sleep patterns
- but for approximately one in four people the multiple symptoms can be severe and have a huge impact on their lives.
Social isolation and difficulties with family life can often result, with schooling and higher education severely disrupted or difficulty in continuing in employment. In severe cases people may be housebound or confined to bed for long periods.
Fibromylagia shares many symptoms similar to ME and indeed some people are diagnosed with both conditions, depending on their symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is defined as a progressive chronic pain related illness, which is characterised by musculoskeletal pain, aches, stiffness, general fatigue, soft tissue tenderness and sleep disturbances. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes the fatigue and augmented musculoskeletal pain all over the body. It affects women more than men and mostly those women who are of childbearing age.
 NHS Choices
 Dowsett, E.G., Ramsay, A.M., McCartney, R.A. and Bell, E.J. (1990) ‘Myalgic encephalomyelitis – a persistent viral infection?’ Postgraduate Medical Journal, 66, 526 – 30