You may have heard of chronic fatigue syndrome or maybe have it yourself. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has long been controversial in conventional medicine, but neurological research has both validated and renamed it: Myalgic encephalopathy (ME). “Myalgic” means pain and “encephalopathy” means inflammation of the brain or spinal cord. In other words, chronic fatigue syndrome is now known to be caused by inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The illness is often referred to ME/CFS for short.
Other names for myalgic encephalopathy include “post-viral fatigue syndrome” and “chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome.” These names illustrate the illness is real, not imagined, and can be triggered by an inflammatory event, typically a virus.
ME/CFS causes severe and chronic tiredness and affects as many as four million people in the United States.
Many people with chronic fatigue syndrome, a term coined in 1988, prefer you don’t call it that. They believe that name trivializes what is actually a debilitating condition. Many people joke they have “chronic fatigue” when they hear that term, unaware that many sufferers of ME/CFS are largely bedridden and barely able to function.
It doesn’t help that many medical doctors are skeptical the syndrome exists and blame it on patient hysteria. As such, many patients with ME/CFS do not receive a diagnosis or treatment — it’s estimated more than 90 percent of ME/CFS sufferers have not been formally diagnosed.
ME/CFS became established as a legitimate diagnosis in 2014 when the US government contracted the Institute of Medicine to review the scientific literature and define ME/CFS.
The new name is not without controversy, however, as retaining the “CFS” for chronic fatigue syndrome is at odds with what we know scientifically —ME has an identifiable viral trigger while CFS may not. CFS is diagnosed solely by symptoms.
What is ME/CFS?
Four times as many women than men are afflicted with ME/CFS and it usually hits them in their 40s and 50s. It creates the following symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue caused by little or no exertion. This is referred to as “post-exertional malaise.”
- Do not feel rested after sleeping. In fact, poor and unrefreshing sleep only increases fatigue and pain.
- Poor cognition. ME/CFS sufferers often have brain-based issues, including brain fog, poor concentration, poor attention, and memory loss.
- Pain. People with ME/CFS often experience chronic pain, whether it’s in their muscles, joints, throughout the body, or as headaches.
- Gut problems.
- Visual disturbances.
- Chemical sensitivities and food sensitivities.
- Chills and night sweats.
- Depression and irritability.
- Weight changes.
A patient receives an ME/CFS diagnosis when all other possibilities — such as fibromyalgia, thyroid problems, anemia, Lyme disease, lupus, MS, hepatitis, sleep disorders, and depression — have been ruled out.
Functional neurology for ME/CFS
In functional neurology we address underlying brain and health imbalances use brain rehabilitation therapies that can help the brain recover.
Things we investigate include chronic inflammation, infection, neurological dysfunction, gut problems or infections, problems with detoxification and methylation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and poor glutathione activity. Ask my office for more advice.
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