What is ME/CFS?

November 12, 2012

What is ME/CFS?

ME/CFS is a severe illness with a range of symptoms. Find out about the causes, symptoms and whom it is most likely to affect.

Symptoms of ME/CFS

ME/CFS is short for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is associated with a number of areas and functions of the body with the primary ones including dysfunction of the brain, gastro-intestinal, endocrine, cardiac and immune systems. The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases classified the illness as a neurological disorder in 1969. There are a great number and variety of symptoms that accompany ME/CFS, some of which include:

  • Overwhelming post-exertion fatigue, which occurs after either mental or physical activity.

  • Dysfunctional sleep patterns

  • Pain

  • Difficulties with memory

  • Light, sound and touch sensitivity

  • Difficulty with balance and standing

  • Problems related to body temperature and weight

  • Recurrent flu-like symptoms that continue for at least 3 months in children and 6 months in adults

A complete overview of the symptoms of ME/CFS has been written by researchers and experts in the condition and is called the Canadian Guidelines for Medical Practitioners. This can be used to look into further symptoms and guidelines for ME/CFS and contains a checklist enabling the diagnosis of the condition by medical practitioners.

Causes of ME/CFS

A great deal of research has been done into ME/CFS in order to gain a better understanding of the causes of the condition. It is generally thought that there are a number of factors as play that must occur simultaneously in order for an individual to develop the condition. Some of the factors thought to be involved in causing ME/CFS to occur include:

  • Following an acute infection such as glandular fever or an upper respiratory condition

  • Following a flu-like illness

  • Exposure to chemicals or heavy metals

  • Exposure to environmental pollutants

  • Immunisation

  • Severe physical trauma such as surgery or an accident

  • Food mal-absorption or food intolerance

ME/CFS also sometimes occurs accompanying other medical conditions such as fibromyalgia. This is the name given for generalised pain or muscle stiffness occurring anywhere in the body. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is another condition, which ME/CFS commonly occurs alongside. This is a condition in which the individual suffers from headaches and asthma when exposed to everyday chemicals such as perfume, deodorant and cigarette smoke.

Who is affected by ME/CFS

Both men and women and children of all ages can be affected by this illness. Culture and socioeconomic backgrounds additionally do not make any difference.

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