What is ME?
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a neurological illness
which affects around 250,000 people in the UK.
Men, women, and children of all ages and ethnic backgrounds can develop
What causes ME?
It's not yet known why some people get ME and others, in the
same circumstances, don't. However, it
is known that some people have a genetic tendency to ME, and it can affect more
than one family member. ME is usually
triggered by a virus, but sometimes by another physical trauma such as an
What is the main
The defining symptom of ME is "post-exertional
neuro-immune exhaustion" - in other words, any physical or mental activity
leaves someone with ME feeling shattered.
This is very different from ordinary tiredness. People with ME often don't start to feel exhausted
until a day or two after activity, and the exhaustion can last for days. The activity levels of a person with ME are
less than half of their pre-illness levels.
What other symptoms
Not everyone with ME has the same collection of symptoms,
but the most common symptoms include:
* Difficulty with memory and concentration
* Headaches and/or migraines
* Pains in muscles and joints
* Disturbed or unrefreshing sleep
* Sensitivity to light and noise
* Muscle weakness and twitching
* Sore throats and swollen glands
* Digestive problems
* Sensitivity to foods, medications, and chemicals
* Dizziness and difficulty standing up
* Poor body temperature control
Is there a cure?
At the moment there's no cure for ME, and there are no
therapies which work for everyone. Many
people find that their symptoms improve and stabilise with time, however, and
some do recover. A quick diagnosis and
plenty of rest in the early stages of the illness are most likely to lead to
recovery. Trying to push yourself
through the illness will not work - it is more likely to make you worse and
could lead to the illness becoming very severe.
Most people find it helpful to cut down on activities and pace
Does ME have
different names? - what are CFS, PVFS, and CFIDS?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a general term for a wide
range of fatigue-based conditions. CFS
and ME have different diagnostic criteria*, but many people use the names
interchangeably or talk about CFS/ME or ME/CFS when they mean ME.
Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) is a fatigue-based
illness which may follow a virus. It is
generally shorter-term than ME (lasting months rather than years), but people
with PVFS also need to rest and not try to push through the illness, as
otherwise it can develop into ME.
Chronic Fatigue and Immune Disfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) is
the American name for ME.
*You can find the Diagnostic Criteria for ME here (tip:
download the short version): Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: International Consensus
Criteria, Journal of Internal Medicine, 20 July 2011 www.meassociation.org.uk/?p=7173
has ME - how can I help?
You can believe they have a serious illness - even if they
don't look ill, they won't be able to do all the things they used to do, and
trying will make them worse. You can
understand that they are still the same person, and that they want to be well.
You can find out more about ME - start by looking at the
information on this website, and the organisations on the Links page.
You can support ME research:
• Invest In ME (www.investinme.org) is a
small charity which is currently trying to raise funds to set up a UK centre of
excellence for medical research into ME.
• ME Research UK (www.meresearch.org.uk,
01738 451234) also funds research into ME.
I think I have ME -
what should I do?
It's important to eliminate other conditions first, so make
sure your GP gives you some basic screening tests. They can then refer you to the local NHS ME
service, who should be able to help with diagnosis and symptom management. You may also find it helpful to join a local
This text is taken from the Group's current leaflet, which can be viewed and/or downloaded:
Cambridge ME Support Group leaflet (pdf)