What Is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)?


Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a medical condition defined by persistent, severe fatigue that lasts for months or years. It can affect the ability to work, go to school, participate in social activities, and complete daily tasks, such as taking a shower or making a meal. ME/CFS is often difficult to diagnose. There is no cure for the condition, but treatment can improve quality of life.

What are the signs and symptoms of ME/CFS?

Signs and symptoms of ME/CFS include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Severe fatigue that lasts for at least 6 months and is not improved by rest
  • Post-exertional malaise (worsening symptoms after physical or mental activities)
  • Difficulty sleeping or non-restorative sleep
  • Brain fog (difficulty thinking or remembering information)
  • Orthostatic intolerance (dizziness or weakness when standing up or sitting up from a reclined position)
  • Muscle aches, muscle weakness, or joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chills and night sweats
  • Allergies or sensitivities to food, odors, chemicals, light or noise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heart beat

Symptoms of ME/CFS are highly individualized and can change and fluctuate in severity on a daily basis.

What causes ME/CFS?

The exact cause of ME/CFS is unknown. Many medical professionals believe it could be caused by persistent activity of a virus or bacteria or by the body’s immune response to an infection even after the infection is gone. Other possible triggers include psychological stress, physical/emotional trauma, or a hormonal imbalance.

Who is at risk of developing ME/CFS?

Anyone at any age can develop ME/CFS. However, it is most commonly diagnosed in Caucasian adults between the ages of 40 and 60. It is also more common in women than men.

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