Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about ME.
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ME stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.
Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) is a multisystem, complex, acquired illness with symptoms related mainly to the dysfunction of the brain, gastro-intestinal, immune, endocrine and cardiac systems. ME/PVFS has been classified as a neurological disorder in the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases since 1969 (ICD 10 G93.3). Since 1992, the term "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" (CFS) has been included in the Alphabetical Index and indexed to G93.3.
The Chief Medical Officer's Report on the subject of CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) issued in January 2002 recognises that "CFS/ME should be classed as a chronic condition with long term effects on health, alongside other illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease
To date there is no known specific medical diagnostic test to determine or confirm a correct diagnosis nor is there any specific treatment for this condition.
Other Links: History and Classification of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Anyone can get ME. It is more common in women than in men. In children the ratio between
boys and girls tends to be the same up until puberty after which time it is more common in girls
than in boys.
However, epidemiological data is lacking and further difficulties in assessing the research data is the use of at least five different criteria for research or diagnosis (CDC, Oxford, NICE, Canadian Consensus (GCC) and International Consensus Criteria (ICC)) all purporting to study patients with a diagnosis of ME, PVFS , ME/CFS or CFS.
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Estimates vary between 0.11% and 2.6% of the population depending on the criteria used. In the UK the most often cited prevalence figure is 0.4% or 200 000 to 250 000 people of which 25% are children. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/9/91 http://www.iacfsme.org/IssueswithCDCEmpiricalCaseDefinitionandPrev/tabid/105/Default.aspx
Symptoms include overwhelming post-exertional fatigue from mental or physical activity; dysfunctional sleep; pain; problems with memory; sensitivity to light, touch and sound; problems with standing and balance; problems with body temperature and weight; and recurrent flu-like symptoms; that persist for at least six months in adults; or three months in children (Carruthers et al, 2003).
There have been several documented outbreaks of ME but evidence of person to person transmission is lacking. ME is more common in some families pointing to a genetic component but there is no evidence of ME being inherited as such.
Currently there is no cure for ME. Treatment is based on managing the condition and providing symptom relief. Advances in treating and understanding ME are made every year, and progress in research to find a cure or effective treatments is very encouraging.
There are no MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) or FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approved drugs to treat ME yet. Treatment is based on managing symptoms and avoiding over-exertion. Patients find pacing mental and physical activities most beneficial. Drugs such as Ampligen and Rituxan are being trialled in ongoing studies. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/newsevents/ucm337759.htm http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02229942?term=rituximab+me%2Fcfs&rank=3 www.ukrituximabtrial.org
As the cause of ME is unknown and it often follows an infectious episode with relapsing and remitting nature patients with a diagnosis of ME/PVFS/CFS are permanently excluded from donating blood. This applies to even those patients who say they have recovered. http://www.transfusionguidelines.org.uk/dsg/wb/guidelines/ch013-chronic-fatigue-syndrome
Diagnosing ME can be a challenging process as there is no single laboratory test yet available to prove or rule out ME. A careful history taking is important and if the symptoms or test results are attributable to another active disease process ME should be ruled out. Conditions such as major depressive disorder, MS, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, thyroid disorders, Addison's disease and some cancers for example can present themselves with symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, pain and cognitive problems and should be ruled out before a diagnosis of ME is made. If another active disease process is well under control and the patient still has symptoms that fulfil ME criteria then an ME diagnosis can be made.