M.E. is primarily neurological, but also involves cognitive, cardiac, cardiovascular, immunological, endocrinological, metabolic, respiratory, hormonal, gastrointestinal and musculo-skeletal dysfunctions and damage. M.E. affects all vital bodily systems and causes an inability to maintain bodily homeostasis. More than 64 individual symptoms of M.E. have been scientifically documented.
What defines M.E. is a specific type of viral damage to the brain.
M.E. represents a major attack on the CNS by the chronic effects of a viral infection which targets the brain: an enterovirus. The onset of M.E. is acute or sudden. More than 60 symptoms have been authentically documented in M.E.
M.E. is associated with signs and symptoms including (but not limited to):
Neurological signs and symptoms:
Vascular and cardiovascular signs and symptoms:
Muscular signs and symptoms:
Cognitive signs and symptoms:
Other signs and symptoms:
What characterises M.E. every bit as much as the individual symptoms is the way in which people with M.E. respond to physical and cognitive activity, sensory input and orthostatic stress, and so on. It is unique in a number of ways and must be present for a correct diagnosis of M.E. to be made, and includes the following:
30% of M.E. patients are housebound and/or bedbound and are severely limited with even basic movement and communication. Cognitive disability can be very pronounced in M.E., just as much as can physical disability.
This information is based upon an enormous body of clinical information and research. Although M.E. can cause many different symptoms the major features of epidemic and sporadic M.E. are distinct and almost identical from one patient to the next. M.E. is a severely disabling, distinct, easily recognisable and testable disease entity.
To read or download an extended and fully referenced version of the above text, please see the The comprehensive M.E. symptom list page.
Additional relevant links:
Because of the vast amount of inaccurate information being propagated about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis by various vested interest groups (helped immeasurably by the creation of the bogus disease category of ‘CFS’ as well as a number of vague and misleading umbrella terms such as ‘ME/CFS’ ‘CFS/ME’ ‘CFIDS’ and Myalgic ‘Encephalopathy’ etc.) it is important to explain briefly what are the myths about M.E., and the symptoms of M.E.
M.E. is not synonymous with being tired all the time. If a person is fatigued for an extended period of time this does not mean they are having a ‘bout’ of M.E. To suggest such a thing is no less absurd than to say that prolonged fatigue means a person is having a ‘bout’ of multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. Fatigue is a symptom of many different illnesses – but it is not a defining symptom of M.E., or an essential symptom of M.E. Some patients with M.E. may suffer with fatigue as a minor symptom, but many will not.
There are a number of post-viral fatigue states or fatigue syndromes which may follow common infections such as mononucleosis/glandular fever, hepatitis, Q fever, Ross river virus and so on. M.E. is an entirely different condition to these self-limiting fatigue syndromes however, the science is very clear on this point. M.E. is also not the same condition as Lyme disease, athletes over-training syndrome, burnout, depression, somatisation disorder, candida, multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome or Fibromyalgia, or indeed any other illness.
What defines M.E. is not ‘chronic fatigue’ but a specific type of damage to the brain. M.E. is an infectious neurological illness of extraordinarily incapacitating dimensions that affects virtually every bodily system – not a problem of unexplained ‘fatigue' or exhaustion.
For more information on this topic please see: The comprehensive M.E. symptom list and What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?
Many M.E. experts (and M.E. sufferers) have spoken out about against 'fatigue' being the defining features of M.E., see: M.E. is not defined by 'fatigue' and also the Quotes section for more information plus What it feels like to have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: A personal M.E. symptom list and description of M.E.
The Fatigue Schmatigue paper explains how the fraudulent 'fatigue' construct came into being and how the M.E. community can and MUST play an active part in debunking this myth. This paper is aimed not at the public but at M.E. sufferers and other members of the M.E. community and is highly recommended.
It should not be assumed that because one may have some of the symptoms on the list that one necessarily has M.E. - many of them are common in a variety of other disorders and it is the pattern of symptoms which enables a M.E. diagnosis to be made, as well as the presence of a number of core characteristics and symptoms which are always present in the illness, and without which a diagnosis of M.E. should never be made. (For example, damage to the brain, the CNS, which is visible on brain scans, and so on.)
Even having a large number or percentage of the symptoms on this list does NOT necessarily mean a M.E. diagnosis is likely or even possible. M.E. cannot be accurately diagnosed merely on the presence of a certain percentage of possible M.E. symptoms. Those with Lyme disease may see many of their symptoms listed in M.S. or M.E. symptom lists, but this does not mean that Lyme disease is the same as M.S. or M.E. The same is true of many different diseases. Many diseases share a few symptoms, but what is important is the very different causes of these symptoms and the very different pathology and response to treatment seen in each of these patient groups.
None of these patient groups has the same cause of symptoms as seen in M.E. as none of these patient groups share the pathology of M.E. (For example, most of the symptoms of M.E. are caused by cardiac insufficiency and the associated reduced circulating blood volume of up to 50%. This can be so severe as to lead to death in M.E., in some cases. Yet this problem of cardiac insufficiency and reduced circulating blood volume simply does NOT OCCUR in these non-M.E. diseases.)
M.E. patients can be separated very easily and clearly from those with Lyme disease, various post-viral fatigue syndromes, candida, Bechet's disease, vitamin deficiencies, depression and other mental disease and so on when the onset of the disease is taken into consideration (unlike most of these diseases, the onset of M.E. is always sudden or acute) and when an evaluation of the core and unique symptoms of M.E. is done along with some of the tests used to confirm a M.E. diagnosis. M.E. should never be diagnosed based on a superficial analysis of non-core M.E. symptomatology. See: Testing for M.E. for more information on the diagnosis of M.E.