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Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis, Causes

What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?


Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is known before as a yuppie flu which was described to affect young office workers located in big cities. It is a mysterious and debilitating kind of illness. ME, which is also called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or post-viral fatigue syndrome, is known to affect the peripheral, central, and autonomic nervous system as well as the muscular system. Those who have this condition usually experience  fatigue that leads to an prolonged period or exhaustion. Contrary to speculations, this is not a rare condition. In the United States alone, approximately 500, 000 have reported to experience such illness.

ME is also defined as a complex, severe, and acquired illness that leads to various symptoms related mainly to the dysfunction of the brain, gastrointestinal, immune, cardiac, and endocrine systems. According to the World Health Organization, it has been classified under neurological diseases.

To clearly define this disease condition, the terms chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalitis will be analyzed. On the one hand, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term disease condition that deals with fatigue as a syndrome. On the other hand, myalgic encephalitis (ME)  means muscular pain and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord respectively.

Myalgic encephalitis

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Symptoms

As mentioned earlier, those who suffer from ME will manifest a physiological illness which involves the dysfunction in the immune system and neurological endocrine combined with the involvement of the nervous system.  Depending on the intensity, the symptoms which are manifested will vary. Most often the symptoms of this disease condition will produce economical and negative social consequences which may lead to a long-term disability. The following are prominent criteria which distinguish this condition from the rest:

  • When a person exercises, the symptoms worsen.
  • The person experiences persistent fatigue which does not improve, even with bed rest

Other symptoms include:

  • Cognitive symptoms
    • Poor memory recall
    • Poor concentration
    • Difficulty in choosing appropriate words as well as speaking
    • Foggy thinking
  • Physical symptoms
    • Blurred vision
    • Pain in the joints
    • Poor circulation
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Lack of energy
    • Low blood pressure
    • Muscular ache
    • Constipation
    • Muscle twitching
    • Muscular pain and weakness
    • Tender swelling of the lymph nodes
    • Chronic sore throat
    • Rashes
    • Headache
    • Altered smell and taste
    • Sensitivity to food, light, chemicals, touch, pain, perfume and the like
    • Frequency in urination
    • Dry mucous membrane
    • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Nervous symptoms
    • Depression
    • Disoriented feeling
    • Anxiety
    • Mood swings
    • Interruption in sleeping patterns
    • Personality changes

Severe ME Symptoms

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Causes

The exact cause of ME has not yet been determined, although there have been theories that have linked the illness to the following predisposing factors:

  • Viral infection
  • Immunization
  • Severe physical trauma
  • Chemical exposure
  • Exposure to pollutants in the environment or heavy metals
  • Poor food absorption
  • Gut dysbiosis
  • Hormonal changes
  • Inherited genetic susceptibility

Other researchers would say that the following factors exacerbate the condition:

  • Recurrent bacterial or viral infection
  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Over-active or under-active behavior

There are also other contributing factors that researchers have pointed out, such as the following:

  • Trauma during childhood
  • Recent traumatic event
  • Mental stress
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Inherited genetic susceptibility
  • Viral infection
  • Depression

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Diagnosis

There are no specific tests that prove a person is, indeed, suffering from this condition. The tests that will be mentioned here are those that are used to rule out other etiological factors that cause fatigue or other symptoms that are associated with this disease. The tests which are done to confirm whether a person is  really experiencing ME include the following:

  • Physical examination

Here the doctor will examine the patient’s visible symptoms.

  • Medical historical exam

The doctor will ask related questions on the patient’s disease condition.

  • Chemical stress and exercising exams

These include a cardiopulmonary exercise test which examines the abnormal heart rate and blood pressure levels that are specific to this disease condition.

  • Tilt table examination

A patient’s orthostatic intolerance which may be associated with ME can be seen from this exam.

  • 24-hour Holter monitoring test

This is a heart monitor which can be carried around by the person. It is used to monitor the abnormal heart waves and heart rhythm which may also be associated with ME.

  • Glucose tolerance and insulin level exam

People with ME will experience derangement in response to the insulin level. Furthermore the glucose tolerance levels are often abnormal.

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)

This is a blood exam that detects and monitors the inflammation which is based on the rate of red blood cells (RBC). Thos who have a low ESR are often patients with ME.

  • RNase L exam

The dysfunction of the 2-5A RNase L antiviral pathway has been seen in patients who suffer from this disease condition.

  • Immune system exam

Those who have ME have an abnormal immune system which often mimics the immune system pattern during viral infections.

  • Neurological examination

People who suffer from ME will reveal abnormalities in their neurological examination.

  • QEEG and EEG brain exam

When a person has abnormal cognitive results in EEG brain maps, it can be associated with ME.

  • Neuropsychological exam

This test is used to identify the cognitive dysfunction as well as confirm the diagnosis for this disease condition.

  • Brain scan exam via MRI

With the use of MRI, the test may show the demyelination or edema of the subcortical areas of the brain which may be associated with ME.

  • Xenon SPECT and SPECT scans of the brain 

This exam shows the decreased blood flow in the cerebral region which is also positively shown in patients who experience ME.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Treatment

Medical treatments

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ME at the moment. Doctors will only prescribe medications which provide symptomatic relief in muscular pains, sleeping problems, and depression problems. Others who experience mood changes are given antidepressant medications. The following are the most commonly prescribed medications for people with ME:

  • Analgesics
  • Antidepressants

Healthy diet and lifestyle

One thing about ME is that this illness can recur. Hence, there is a need for the patient to adapt a nutritious diet and a healthier lifestyle side by side with relaxation techniques and rest which help prevent recurrences in the nearby future.

A person can adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle by performing the following:

  • Engaging in moderate exercises
  • Having a diet diary to monitor the intake of food and being able to pinpoint which foods cause allergic reactions
  • Staying away as much as possible from chemically rich items or foods such as:
    • Aftershaves
    • Scented soaps
    • Perfumes
    • Food chemicals
  • Consuming yogurt or cultured dairy foods that contain lactic acid bacteria which are beneficial for patients with ME

Cognitive behavior therapy

It is a psychotherapeutic therapy which affects the person’s attitude, behavior, and overt emotions. Cognitive behavior therapy, which is one of the effective forms of psychotherapy, deals with the way the patient manages his or her disease condition. Results have been effective for patients who have been dealing with ME for a long period of time.

In sum, medications alone will not cure the entity of the person. There has to be a combination of medication, healthy living, and cognitive behavior therapy to provide the optimum needs of the person as he or she will struggle with ME throughout his or her life.

CFS Cure

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