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What is ME?

ME is a neurological condition (World Health Organisation, ICD 10 G 93.3) and disease of the central nervous system. The condition affects around 250,000 people within the UK, including people of all ages and backgrounds, although it is more common in women than men.

ME is characterised by severe and debilitating fatigue, which usually affects both physical and mental functioning, and it also causes a range of other symptoms. Whilst the cause of the condition is unclear, it's often linked to a viral infection such as glandular fever, and in some cases, a bacterial infection.

What does ME stand for?

ME is an abbreviated term for Myalgic Encephalopathy, which actually means muscular pain (Myalgic) and significant disorder of brain functioning (Encephalopathy). The condition is more commonly known as 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome' or CFS, yet many people use the umbrella term ME/CFS.

What are the symptoms?

ME causes a range of symptoms, including severe and debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, digestive problems, pain that can be difficult to control, problems with short-term memory and concentration. In the UK, the condition is classified as mild, moderate or severe, and severe ME can result in someone being housebound or bedbound for months or years.

How is it diagnosed?

ME can take many months to diagnose because there is no specific test that confirms someone has it, and a number of other conditions have the same or similar symptoms. Receiving a fairly prompt diagnosis, followed by the correct medical advice and support, often helps in terms of achieving some kind of recovery.

What is the treatment for ME?

The treatment for ME involves symptom management through medication, life-style changes, and strategies such as 'pacing'. Whilst a full-recovery is rare, with the right kind of management and support, people can improve over time. In a very small few cases, people with the severe form of ME will remain severely affected.

More articles

Integrative counsellor Elizabeth Turp has wrritten the following self-help articles for us:

What is ME/CFS

Living Well with ME/CFS

Pacing for ME/CFS

Alternative Approaches to ME/CFS