What Actually is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a debilitating disease that has been ignored for decades, often being written off by clinicians as depression, or being left undiagnosed despite the severity of the illness.

This was likely due to the extreme variation from case to case, the lack of knowledge regarding the aetiology of the illness and the fact that diagnosis can only be made by process of elimination.

However, now the World Health Organization, the Department of Health and the Royal Colleges of Physicians have recognized the illness, and more research has been carried out which seems to be confirming a physiological cause.

WHO has not announced a distinction or synonymous relationship between CFS and ME, so it is generally referred to as CFS/ME.

ME has been classified by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) since 1969 classified as a neurological disease since Dr. Mevlin Ramsay reported an outbreak at the Royal Free Hospital in London in 1955.

ME/CFS is characterized by prolonged fatigue that can not be relieved with sleep  or rest, and can be triggered by very minimal activity. Accompanied with this, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep patterns, gastric problems, cognitive impairment, recurring sore throat, dizziness, nausea, palpitations, poor short-term memory, disorientation, difficulty to plan events.

In the most severe cases, patients may be wheelchair-dependent for mobility and unable to leave the home except on rare occasions, usually with assistance. Post-exertion malaise tends to be severe and lasts for a prolonged period of time. In these cases, patients spend most of their time in bed. A recently self-assessment study by Derek Pheby and Lisa Saffron at Buckinghamshire University reported that up to 25% of ME patients are housebound, if not bed bound.

The Ramsay Research Fund, one of the leading research funds dedicated to CFS/ME, is currently aiding the following projects:

  • mitochondrial dysfunction (Medical Research Council at the University of Liverpool)
  • sleep management (University of Northumbria)
  • pathophysiology in post-extertional malaise

ME/CFS is a very real disease affecting the lives of more than one million Americans, and many more around the world.

Better understanding of this illness is vital to improve the quality of life for sufferers.

More information can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/general/index.html and http://www.meassociation.org.uk.





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