Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

QUESTION: What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?


Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a mysterious illness (usually known as M.E.) that appeared in the latter half of the 20th century, although researchers now suspect it had been unrecognized for much longer. It first became known as “Yuppie Flu” as many young up-and-coming office workers, mostly from big cities, were reporting symptoms of excessive fatigue. They noted the inability to think clearly and they were being told by their doctors that they were simply adverse to work. Even now, decades later, when millions of people all over the world, children included, are suffering from this debilitating illness, many doctors are refusing to take it seriously.

The inference that sufferers from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis are just lazy has been one of the tragedies of the illness. It stems from the fact that it is impossible to diagnose and doctors only have the patient’s word to rely on concerning the symptoms. This has led victims of M.E. to feel isolated, abandoned, and often severely depressed. Fortunately in Great Britain, because of the steadily increasing number of sufferers all over the country, the Royal College of Surgeons has officially recognized Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as an illness, and also its lesser cousin Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This has caused many doctors to reconsider their position and to be much more sympathetic in their approach to those who suffer from it.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis affects the whole system, varying in intensity from one person to another. The symptoms are many -- the dominant one being intense fatigue far beyond normal tiredness. Sufferers describe it as being utterly drained of energy to the point of feeling as though they are “nailed to the bed,” and the smallest movement is an effort. This fatigue is so intense that it can actually make victims feel ill, causes aching joints and muscles, and often actual pain. It also affects the memory, the power to think clearly, and to concentrate, so that it is like having the brain draped with thick cobwebs. Other symptoms are an inability to sleep well, and a feeling like the onset of the “flu” along with a sore throat and enlarged glands.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is reported by its victims who do not have it very severely, as being a “yoyo” existence. They have good periods where it does not affect them quite so much, and bad periods where they require much more rest, frequently having to spend entire days in bed. Those who suffer to the worst extent are often in constant pain (low back pain, pains in joints and muscles from head to toe) and are permanently bed-bound. Many of these unfortunates have to be hospitalized.

Some eventually recover from M.E. and some have the illness for life. It is one of the most mysterious illnesses ever known to the medical world and the root causes are still completely unknown.

Learn More About Chronic Fatigue

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