Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

health Aug 25, 2021
Stress Fibers and Microtubules in Human Breast Cancer Cells. Created by Christina Stuelten, Carole Parent, 2011
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)is one of the most perplexing conditions to emerge in recent years.
It is an acquired chronic and disabling complex disorder. It is characterized by diffuse changes in the central nervous system, due to an infection attacking the nervous system causing brain inflammation.
Brain inflammation damages or destroys the nerve cells in the brain. Encephalitis is the inflammation of Brain, so ME also appears to be a form of encephalitis.
It is also known as post viral fatigue syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or “systemic exertion intolerance disease”.
Even though some strong similarities exist between Autism Spectrum Disorder and ME/CFS, ASD is not ME. Myalgic encephalomyelitis is not rare. It may be due to a viral infection, usually a flu-like or upper respiratory illness, or non-viral illness.

Since 1969, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized it as a distinct disorder and treated it as a specific neurological disorder. The term (CFS) chronic fatigue syndrome was first used in the medical literature during the 1980s in the United States.


The symptoms include muscle pain and fatigue, exhaustion, flu-like symptoms, mood swings, poor concentration, short-term memory loss, depression, and some digestive complaints.
Other common symptoms are joint pain, headache, sore throat, tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpits, hot and cold flashes, nausea and vomiting, night sweats, irritable bowel syndrome, sensitivities to foods, odours, chemicals, or noise.
Due to long-term fatigue and other symptoms, a person's ability to carry out ordinary daily activities will be limited.
Other illness conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon, temporomandibular joint syndrome, interstitial cystitis, and myofascial pain syndrome also appear along with ME.

In children, ME may be characterized by excessive restlessness and movement (hyperactivity) followed by extreme weakness and frequent resting. Due to frequent resting, they are misunderstood as being lazy.


Medications can cause side effects that simulate the symptoms of ME.
Brain inflammation, systemic inflammation, low blood volume, immune system deficiency, abnormal gene reactions and abnormal energy metabolism in response to exercise, and abnormalities in the hypothalamic or adrenal or pituitary system may cause ME.


As the affected individuals are highly sensitive to medication, using supplements or medications should be avoided.  
To control some of the symptoms, graded exercise therapy, counselling or “cognitive behaviour therapy” are the only treatments available at present.

ME follows some form of viral infection or, occasionally, a vaccination.
A healthy, well-balanced diet that contains enough complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals is required to cope with these problems.
Taking small, regularly spaced meals throughout the day to ensure that the body receives a steady flow of nutrients, helps the body to fight the illness.

Foods such as pasta, wholemeal bread, oats, potatoes, brown rice, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products or eggs every day, green leafy vegetables, nuts and oily fish provide a steady release of energy.

Dos and Don’ts

Try to relax and take rest during the day.
Obtain an accurate diagnosis, preferably from a doctor who has experience of the disorder.
Keep a diary of progress noting the symptoms and what activities affect the mood and physical well-being.
Do not involve over exertion.
Don’t take alcohol as it acts as a depressant.
Don’t drink more than three or four cups of coffee a day and avoid coffee at bed time.
Don’t undergo anaesthetic or vaccination, unless essential.

According to doctors who dealt with it, the most effective treatment is to give the body time to heal itself, and to help it to do so by adopting a healthier diet and a sensible lifestyle.


A. Sandhya

M.Sc Zoology

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