What is ME – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue?

Author Kristina Symes , 08-Aug-2020

Table of contents

Tired person with a wind up attached to the back


Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is a little-understood, female-biased [1] illness. It is estimated that up to 90% of people with the condition go diagnosed [2] and about 25% of sufferers are severely ill [3]. In recognition of this disease’s profound physical and psychological impact on its victims, August 8th has been designated as a Severe ME Awareness Day.

What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as Chronic Fatigue?

The disease is best known for a state of extreme and unremitting fatigue. A range of additional symptoms may suggest the presence of an infectious disease: myalgia, nausea, cognitive disturbance, “flu-like” symptoms, sore throat, palpitations, headache, and insomnia [4]. In severe cases of ME, fatigue syndrome patients may be bedridden and lose the ability to do the simplest tasks, such as boiling eggs for lunch [5] or feeding themselves [6].

Diagnosing a Fatigue Syndrome

Although outbreaks of possible ME or chronic fatigue syndrome have been recorded since 1955 [7], and several studies have suggested a viral or bacterial etiology, a lack of coherent understanding of etiology and pathogenesis makes the diagnosis of ME or chronic fatigue syndrome particularly difficult. Fatigue syndrome symptoms may persist for years [8], and patients in general practice settings may be sent from one specialist to another until all other potential disorders (notably Lyme disease [9] [10]) are discounted. Since most patients with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome are ultimately referred to Infectious Diseases specialists, GIDEON lists the condition in its database, allowing clinicians to compare side-by-side with similar diseases.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis and Lyme Disease comparison table


Treatment to improve the quality of life of chronic fatigue syndrome patients demands significant changes in lifestyle, such as creating a quiet environment to help reduce the effects of hypersensitivity [11, 12]. Fatigue syndrome treatment is tricky, especially with the range of symptoms and difficulty of diagnosing the illness.

There is currently no known cure for this syndrome. Various drugs are currently under review, including Metformin and Momordica charantia extract [13]. Newer diagnostic techniques include a nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker [14].


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  2. What is ME/CFS? | Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) | CDC. Cdc.gov. (2018). Retrieved 7 August 2020
  3. What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)?. #MEAction. (2020). Retrieved 7 August 2020
  4. Myalgic encephalomyelitis. gideononline.com. (2020). Retrieved 7 August 2020
  5. Foggy Friends Where ME/CFS Sufferers Unite Forums – Anna – The M.E Years. Foggyfriends.org. Retrieved 7 August 2020
  6. Price, N. (2020). [Image]. Retrieved 7 August 2020, from https://25megroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/N-Price-.jpg.
  7. Royal Free Hospital. (1957). An Outbreak of Encephalomyelitis in the Royal Free Hospital Group, London, in 1955. PubMed Central (PMC). Retrieved 7 August 2020
  8. Foggy Friends Where ME/CFS Sufferers Unite Forums – Members Stories. Foggyfriends.org. Retrieved 7 August 2020
  9. Cottle, L., Mekonnen, E., Beadsworth, M., Miller, A., & Beeching, N. (2012). Lyme disease in a British referral clinic. QJM105(6), 537-543. https://doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcs003
  10. Patrick, D., Miller, R., Gardy, J., Parker, S., Morshed, M., & Steiner, T. et al. (2015). Lyme Disease Diagnosed by Alternative Methods: A Phenotype Similar to That of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Clinical Infectious Diseases61(7), 1084-1091. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/civ470
  11. Comhaire, F., & Deslypere, J. (2020). News and views in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS): The role of co-morbidity and novel treatments. Medical Hypotheses134, 109444. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2019.109444
  12. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) – Treatment. nhs.uk. (2017). Retrieved 7 August 2020
  13. Severely Affected Patients | Clinical Care of Patients | Healthcare Providers | Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) | CDC. Cdc.gov. (2019). Retrieved 7 August 2020
  14. Esfandyarpour, R., Kashi, A., Nemat-Gorgani, M., Wilhelmy, J., & Davis, R. (2019). A nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences116(21), 10250-10257. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1901274116
Kristina Symes

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