Our grateful thanks to the charity Action for ME (www.actionforme.org.uk) for their input to this weeks feature and for the use of the suppport information below. Action for M.E. is the leading UK charity for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) and their carers. Their website provides a huge amount of detailed information on ME
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is an illness with many names. Within the NHS it is commonly called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS or CFS/M.E.). Sometimes it is known as Myalgic Encephalopathy or diagnosed as Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS).
M.E. is a long-term (chronic) fluctuating illness that causes symptoms affecting many body systems, more commonly the nervous and immune systems.
Many people with M.E. experience persistent fatigue or pain. However, M.E. is characterised by a range of additional symptoms.ymptoms may include persistent exhaustion (‘fatigue’), muscle and/or joint pain, sleep disturbance, ’flu-like symptoms such as headache, sore throat, painful lymph nodes, dizziness and/or nausea and problems with memory and concentration. M.E. affects people in different ways and to differing degrees. It’s a very variable illness and your symptoms can change over time.
While it’s important to find out more about the range of symptoms experienced by different people with M.E. - it is also important to know that sufferers symptoms vary from person to person.
Who is affected? Men, women and children of all ages, and of all social and ethnic backgrounds can develop M.E., although it is most common in women aged 25-50. Estimates vary but it is thought that around 250,000 people in the UK have the illness.
Causes? It's not fully understand what causes the illness. There are likely to be a number of factors involved. It sometimes affects more than one family member. The reasons are being studied but it seems your genes can play a part, as can the influence of your environment.
There is evidence that certain infections can trigger the illness. Many are viruses but M.E. can be triggered in other ways.
Diagnosis. There is no medical laboratory test currently available to detect M.E. Doctors diagnose the illness by assessing your medical history, recognising the typical symptom pattern of M.E. and conducting basic tests, for example on blood or urine samples, to rule out other conditions.
Many illnesses can sound quite similar in their symptoms and excluding other conditions is a usual part of the process of reaching a diagnosis.
Patients may need to make several visits to their doctor before a final diagnosis is made. NICE guidelines (for England and Wales) and NHS Scotland guidelines say that a provisional diagnosis should be made within three to four months.
The earlier that your illness is recognised, the sooner you can begin to manage and treat your symptoms.
Treatment. There isn't a 'magic bullet' that can cure M.E. but there are a number of approaches that can help.
Listen to this weeks radio report
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