Due to the wide-spread presence of this condition, affecting numerous individuals, clinical criteria for myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue, needed to be set. Many countries, like Canada, for example, started establishing the terms of reference, selecting a group of physicians, researchers and other people involved into medicine.
In Canada, this happened in April 1 2001, and, today, in many different countries myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue are used interchangeably, for diagnosing the same type of a health problem.
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) Chronic Fatigue (CF)
Chronic fatigue syndrome is thought to be an endemic disorder, even though it can occur in epidemic and sporadic forms too. ME or CF can affect all people on this planet, regardless of their race, sex or socioeconomic status.
In order to give a clearer picture of this condition, a study was carried out, encompassing over 28,000 adult individuals, finding that, among 100,000 people, 422 men may suffer from this condition, while, with women the numbers were a bit higher, reaching 522.
Currently, many health experts are trying to identify and categorize this condition further, doing their best to understand it fully.
This illness, in some cases can be quite severe and even debilitating. Basically, ME or CF affects a person through neurological, immunological and endocrinological problems. It is thought to be triggered by viruses in a vast majority of cases. However, other microorganisms and factors may lead to ME or CF too.
As far as viruses are concerned, the Epstein-Barr virus, the Herpes virus, the Entrovirus, the Cytomegalovirus, the Lentivirus, Chlamidia and Mycoplasma, all have been connected with this condition even though the results of the testings are not universal and, therefore, not a single standpoint is properly backed-up yet.
The health experts are still trying to find out whether the ME or CF is triggered by the underlying microorganism which starts the infection or some kind of problems with the immune system which lead to this reaction under certain circumstances.
Interestingly, before most of the people who suffer from this condition actually start manifesting the symptoms, they are perceived as completely healthy.
However, once the condition takes its toll, various conditions, like upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and sinusitis, gastroenteritis or other conditions resembling the flu may appear.
Bearing in mind that this condition, being complex as it is, will hardly fall under a limited set of symptoms, some signs of it have remained mutually prevalent in many patients, being considered a standard set of signs required for the diagnosis of ME/CF.
Basically, the patient needs to suffer from malaise, fatigue, sleep issues and pain, while having two or more additional problems which manifest on the neurological or cognitive plan and one or two signs which can be categorized as autonomic, endocrine or immune.
Thus, fatigue is the first sign and it usually appears without any previous manifestations, being recurring, affecting one both on the physical and the mental level, reducing his/her physical activity.
Due to this fatigue, mental and physical stamina levels are decreased and lost, followed by pain and worsening of the symptoms, if the patient gets involved in physical exertion. After such occurrences, the patient usually requires up to a whole single day or more in order to recover.
As it was mentioned above, sleep dysfunction is a required symptom for the diagnosis of this condition, manifesting through one's inability to have adequate sleep rhythms, facing either reversed sleeping habits or some other anomalies related to the duration of sleep and sleeping consistency.
Pain, being the next required symptoms, is usually present in the joints and the muscles, capable of moving to other parts of the body. Headaches are possibly the most prominent manifestation of this symptom, varying in type, severity and patterns.
Speaking of the neurological or cognitive symptoms, these usually stand for the required 2 or more symptoms like confusion, short-term memory consolidation, concentration issues, disorientation, problems with understanding and processing information or remembering words. Additionally, the patients may find it hard to focus their vision or manage themselves spatially. Sometimes, more symptoms may add on to this category, including high sensitivity to light or noise and emotional overloads resulting in mental and physical crashes or excessive anxiety.
Neuroendocrine signs include body temperature below normal, excessive sweating, proneness to fevers, intolerance of cold or strong warmth, weight changes etc, while immune manifestations encompass recurrent signs of flu, tender lymph nodes, sore throat and sensitivity to certain types of food, medication or chemicals.
As far as the autonomic manifestations are concerned, delayed postural hypotension, postural orthostatic tachycardia, irritable bowel syndrome, light-headedness and some other signs are looked for in people being diagnosed with ME/CF.
Ultimately, the sufferer needs to experience the above mentioned symptoms over the course of 6 months.
Today, depending on the care settings from 75 to 2,600 people per 100,000 individuals may suffer from ME/CF. Keeping in mind that, within the same number of people, AIDS appears in 12 individuals, breast cancer in 26, lung cancer in 33 and diabetes in 900, ME/CF is quite a common condition.
All in all, ME/CF is a syndrome which is yet to be fully understood. However, it is diagnosed today through the process of observing an affected individual and searching for the symptoms matching the criteria for this condition.