Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

In the late fall of 1990 I had fallen ill with Mononucleosis.  Unfortunately, this was not to be diagnosed until the spring of the following year.  Meaning, an illness which is usually experianced for a few weeks became 7-8 months.  Some if the the symptoms spoken of below appeared during and after the mono was on its tail-end.  These and new symptoms continued to become steadily worse over a four-year period.  It was then new symptoms unexpectedly, as well as suddenly, arrived in 1994.  After being given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia from one specialist and recieving little help, I obtained the name of another through the Arthris Foundation.  After looking over my an outline I made from the original starting point of the symptoms, how slowly/quickly each one progressed, what aggrivated them -- not only was I confirmed in the Fibromyalgia diagnosis I was recently given...but was also told I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Otherwise known the world over, except from the U.S., as  the neurological disease Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  Further, the specialist commented from what he saw, the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis more than likely manifested during the Mononucleosis viral illness.  My primary care doctor agreed as well as others.

I've had this illness for over 15 years now.

Many of us who have M.E. have faced alot of descrimination from our family, friends, and medical community because, trough no fault of their own, the illness is grossly misunderstood.  There are many myths and misconceptions.  The worst thing anyone can do is dismess the individuals who struggle with this disease as having psycological and mental problems which are causing them to be ill.   Mounting evidence has shown time and again
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a viable, biologically-based medical illness which affects nearly every facet of the human bodily system.  Suggesting "excersize and a good diet" will make this illness "go away and all will be well" is foolhardy.  As spoken within the article below as research has shown excersize not only does little, if any good in many cases...the individual's overall condition is worsened.  Stating one should maintain a well-balanced diet would be common sense for all people to consider.  However, again, to comment this alone will bring an ill person back to health with the illness disappeared does little good.  After all, how many persons with medical conditions such as Cancer, Mutiple Scorolsis, Rheumatoid Arthrits, Diabeties (Types 1 & II), Lupus, Migraines, GERDS, Scoliosis, Strabismus, and a great deal of others would be told the same? 

As a side note, the above many of theillnesses listed were once dismissed as caused by emotional stress, or as I term it AIYHS (All In Yourt Head Syndrome).  Some, like Strabismus which is a condition in which the eyes are unable to align themselves properly and often become either "crossed" or "walled" (thereby compromising vision severely), were blamed on the individual themselves at times.  Regarding Migraines, for the most part stress was considered the main cause.  However it wasn't until the '90s and early in this century they were proven to be caused by a true disorder within the neurological system.  While stress may aggrivate the condition in some there are a multitude of triggers.  (My own are allergerns to organic materials, sensativities to inorganic materials, atmospheric/weather changes, barometric changes,  ect.)

The best way to fight against ignorance is with knowledge.  Below is a rather informative article compossed by Jodi Basset regarding this illness.  I encourage readers to visit her website as well as others -- including those I have listed on my Links page.

While my condition has been listed as moderately-severe I realize there are others who are in much more dire need at this period in time.  It is for them I have chosen to post this. 

Become informed. Please help stop the widespread abuse and neglect of these individuals.

What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

Copyright © by Jodi Bassett 2004 on

This version updated September 2007

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is a debilitating acquired neurological disease which has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1969 as a distinct organic neurological disorder with the code G.93.3.

M.E. can occur in both epidemic and sporadic forms, over 60 outbreaks of M.E. have been recorded worldwide since 1934. M.E. is similar in a number of significant ways to multiple sclerosis, Lupus and poliomyelitis (polio). M.E. can be extremely severe and disabling and in some cases the disease is fatal.

Is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis a new illness? What does the name M.E. mean?

The illness we now know as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is not a new illness. M.E. is thought to have existed for centuries. (Hyde 1998, ) (Dowsett 1999a, )

In 1956 the name Myalgic Encephalomyelitis was created. The term was invented jointly by Dr A Melvin Ramsay who coined this name in relation to the Royal Free Hospital epidemics that occurred in London in 1955 - 1957 and by Dr John Richardson who observed the same type of illness in his rural practice in Newcastle-upon-Tyne area during the same period. It was obvious to these physicians that they were dealing with the consequences of an epidemic and endemic infectious neurological disease (Hyde 1998, ) (Hyde 2006, ). The term Myalgic Encephalomyelitis means: My = muscle, Algic = pain, Encephalo = brain, Mye = spinal cord, Itis = inflammation (Hyde 2006, ). As M.E. expert Dr Byron Hyde MD writes:

The reason why these physicians were so sure that they were dealing with an inflammatory illness of the brain is that they examined patients in both epidemic and endemic situations with this curious diffuse brain injury. In the epidemic situation with patients falling acutely ill and in some cases dying, autopsies were performed and the diffuse inflammatory brain changes are on record (2006, ).

In 1957, the Wallis description of M.E. was created. In 1959 Sir Donald Acheson (a former UK Chief Medical Officer) conducted a major review of M.E. In 1962 the distinguished neurologist Lord Brain included M.E. in the standard textbook of neurology. In recognition of the large body of compelling research that was available, M.E. was formally classified as an organic disease of the central nervous system in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases in 1969 with the code G.93.3 In 1978 the Royal Society of Medicine held a symposium on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis at which M.E. was accepted as a distinct entity. The symposium proceedings were published in The Postgraduate Medical Journal later that same year. The Ramsay case description of M.E. was published in 1981 (Hooper et al. 2001, ).

Since 1956 the term Myalgic Encephalomyelitis has been used to describe the illness in the UK, Europe Canada and Australasia. This term has stood the test of time for more than 50 years. The recorded medical history of M.E. as a debilitating organic neurological illness affecting children and adults is substantial; it spans over 70 years and has been published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals all over the world (Hyde 1998, ) (Hooper 2003a, ) (Dowsett 2001b, ).

As microbiologist and M.E. expert Dr Elizabeth Dowsett explains: ‘There is ample evidence that M.E. is primarily a neurological illness, although non-neurological complications affecting the liver, cardiac and skeletal muscle, endocrine and lymphoid tissues are also recognised’ (n.d.b, ).

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is not defined by mere ‘fatigue’

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is not synonymous with being tired all the time. If a person is very 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, Parkinson’s disease or Lupus. If a person is constantly fatigued this should not be taken to mean that they have M.E. no matter how severe or prolonged their fatigue is. Fatigue is a symptom of many different illnesses as well as a feature of normal everyday life – but it is not a defining symptom of M.E., nor even an essential symptom of M.E.

The terms ‘fatigue’ and ‘chronic fatigue’ were not associated with defining this illness at all until the new name (and definition) of ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ was created in 1988 in the USA (Hyde 2006, ). But M.E. and CFS are not synonymous terms.

‘Fatigue’ and feeling ‘tired all the time’ are not at all the same thing as the very specific type of paralytic muscle weakness or muscle fatigue which is characteristic of M.E. (and is caused by mitochondrial dysfunction) and which affects every organ and cell in the body; including the brain and the heart. This causes – or significantly contributes to – such problems in M.E. as; cardiac insufficiency (a type of heart failure), orthostatic intolerance (inability to maintain an upright posture), blackouts, reduced circulating blood volume (and pooling of the blood in the extremities), seizures (and other neurological phenomena), memory loss, problems chewing/swallowing, episodes of partial or total paralysis, muscle spasms/twitching, extreme pain, problems with digestion, vision disturbances, breathing difficulties, and so on. These problems are exacerbated by even trivial levels of physical and cognitive activity, sensory input and orthostatic stress beyond a patient’s individual limits. People with M.E. are made very ill and disabled by this problem with their cells; it affects virtually every bodily system and has also lead to death in some cases. Many patients are housebound and bedbound and often are so ill that they feel they are about to die.

People with M.E would give anything to instead only be severely ‘fatigued’ or tired all the time (Bassett 2007, ).

Fatigue or post-exertional fatigue (or malaise) may occur in many different illnesses such as various post-viral fatigue states or syndromes, Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and many others – but what is happening with M.E. patients is an entirely different (and unique) problem of a much greater magnitude. These terms are not accurate or specific enough to describe what is happening in M.E. M.E. is a neurological illness of extraordinarily incapacitating dimensions that affects virtually every bodily system – not a problem of ‘chronic fatigue’ (Hyde 2006, ) (Hooper 2006, ) (Hooper & Marshall 2005a, ) (Hyde 2003, ) (Dowsett 2001, ) (Hooper et al. 2001, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Dowsett 1999a, 1999b, ) (Dowsett 1996, p. 167) (Dowsett et al. 1990, pp. 285-291) (Dowsett n.d., ).

    * For more information see Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is not fatigue, or 'CFS'. Many of the worlds leading M.E. experts have spoken out strongly against ‘fatigue’ being claimed to be the defining/essential symptom of M.E. see M.E. is not defined by 'fatigue' to read some of their comments.

If Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ are not synonymous terms, why do some groups claim that they are? What is CFS?

The disease category of CFS was created in a response to an outbreak of what was unmistakably M.E., but this new name and definition did not describe the known signs, symptoms, history and pathology of M.E. It described a disease process that did not, and could not exist.

So why was the renaming and redefining of the distinct neurological disease Myalgic Encephalomyelitis allowed – or indeed designed – to become so muddied? Indeed why did Myalgic Encephalomyelitis suddenly need to be renamed or redefined at all? Money. There was an enormous rise in the incidence of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in the late 1970s and the 1980s and so it was at this time that certain psychiatrists and others involved in the medical insurance industry (on both sides of the Atlantic) began their campaign to reclassify the severely incapacitating and discrete neurological disorder known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as a psychological or ‘personality’ disorder; in order to side-step the financial responsibility of so many new claims (Marshall & Williams 2005a, ). As Professor Malcolm Hooper explains:

In the 1980s in the US (where there is no NHS and most of the costs of health care are borne by insurance companies), the incidence of ME escalated rapidly, so a political decision was taken to rename M.E. as "chronic fatigue syndrome", the cardinal feature of which was to be chronic or on going "fatigue", a symptom so universal that any insurance claim based on "tiredness" could be expediently denied. The new case definition bore little relation to M.E.: objections were raised by experienced international clinicians and medical scientists, but all objections were ignored… To the serious disadvantage of patients, these psychiatrists have propagated untruths and falsehoods about the disorder to the medical, legal, insurance and media communities, as well as to government Ministers and to Members of Parliament, resulting in the withdrawal and erosion of both social and financial support [for M.E. patients]. Influenced by these psychiatrists, government bodies around the world have continued to propagate the same falsehoods with the result that patients are left without any hope of understanding or of health service provision or delivery. As a consequence, government funding into the biomedical aspects of the disorder is non-existent. (2003a, ) (2001, )

For example, the psychiatrist Simon Wessely – arguably the most powerful and prolific author of papers which claim that M.E. is merely a psychological problem of ‘fatigue’ – began his rise to prominence in the UK at the same time the first CFS definition was being created in the USA (1988). Wessely, and his like-minded colleagues – a small group made up mostly but not exclusively of psychiatrists (colloquially known as the ‘Wessely School’) has gained dominance in the field of M.E. in the UK (and increasingly around the world) by producing vast numbers of papers which purport to be about M.E. For at least a decade, serious questions have been raised (and published) in international medical journals about possible scientific misconduct and flawed methodology in the work of Wessely and his colleagues. It is only relatively recently however that his long-term involvement as medical adviser – and board member – to a number of commercial bodies having a vested interest in how M.E. is managed have been exposed.

This is the sole reason why the charade that M.E. could be a psychiatric or behavioural ‘fatiguing’ disorder or even a ‘aberrant belief system’ continues; not because there is good scientific evidence – or any evidence – for the theory, or because the evidence proving organic causes and effects is lacking – but because such a view is so financially and politically convenient and profitable on such a large scale to a number of extremely powerful corporations and government departments. As Professor Malcolm Hooper goes on to explain:

Increasingly, it is now "policy-makers" and Government advisers, not experienced clinicians, who determine how a disorder is classified and managed in the NHS: the determination of an illness classification and the provision of policy-driven "management" is a very profitable business. To the detriment of the sick, the deciding factor governing policies on medical research and on the management and treatment of patients is increasingly determined not by medical need but by economic considerations. There is a gross mismatch between the severity and complexity of M.E. and the medical and public perception of the disorder (2003a, ).

Members of the "Wessely school’ in the UK including Wessely, Sharpe, Cleare and White (etc.), their counterparts (and sometime collaborators) in the US; Reeves and Straus (etc. of the CDC) in Australia Lloyd and Hickie (etc.) and the clinicians of the Nijmegen group in the Netherlands each support a bogus psychiatric or behavioural paradigm of ‘CFS’ and recommend rehabilitation-based approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET) as the most useful interventions for ‘CFS’ patients. It is important to be aware that none of these groups is studying patients with M.E. Each of these groups has created their own definition of ‘CFS’ (or uses one) which does not select those with M.E. but instead selects various types of psychiatric and non-psychiatric fatigue sufferers.

The creation of the bogus disease category ‘CFS’ has undoubtedly been used to impose a false psychiatric paradigm of M.E. by allying it with various unrelated psychiatric fatigue states and post-viral fatigue syndromes (etc) for the benefit of various (proven) financial and political interests. The resulting ‘confusion’ between the distinct neurological disease M.E. and the man-made bogus disease category of ‘CFS’ has caused an overwhelming additional burden of suffering for those who suffer from neurological M.E. and their families.

It's a big huge mess, that is for certain - but it is not an accidental mess - that is for certain too (Hyde 2006a, ) (Hooper 2006, ) (Hyde 2003, ) (Hooper 2003a, ) (Dowsett 2001a, ) (Hooper et al. 2001, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Dowsett 1999a, 1999b, ).

    * To read about the vast difference between M.E. and CFS (and how such a small (but powerful) group of vested interest psychiatrists have come to influence the opinions of the worldwide medical community about M.E.) see: Smoke and mirrors and also A Brief History of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis & An Irreverent History of CFS by Dr Byron Hyde

What does a diagnosis of ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ actually mean?

There are now more than nine different definitions of ‘CFS.’ All each of these flawed CFS definitions ‘define’ is a heterogeneous (mixed) population of people with various misdiagnosed psychiatric and miscellaneous non-psychiatric states which have little in common but the symptom of fatigue. The fact that a person qualifies for a diagnosis of CFS, based on any of the CFS definitions (a) does not mean that the patient has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and (b) does not mean that the patient has any other distinct and specific illness named ‘CFS.’ A diagnosis of CFS – based on any of the CFS definitions – can only ever be a misdiagnosis. All a diagnosis of ‘CFS’ actually means is that the patient has a gradual onset fatigue syndrome which is usually due to a missed major disease. As Dr Byron Hyde M.D. explains, the patient has:

    a. Missed cardiac disease, b. Missed malignancy, c. Missed vascular disease, d. Missed brain lesion either of a vascular or space occupying lesion, e. Missed test positive rheumatologic disease, f. Missed test negative rheumatologic disease, g. Missed endocrine disease, h. Missed physiological disease, i. Missed genetic disease, j. Missed chronic infectious disease, k. Missed pharmacological or immunization induced disease, l. Missed social disease, m. Missed drug use disease or habituation, n. Missed dietary dysfunction diseases, o. Missed psychiatric disease (2006, ).

Under the cover of ‘CFS’ certain vested interest groups have assiduously attempted to obliterate recorded medical history of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis; even though the existing evidence has been published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals around the world and spans over 70 years. As M.E. expert Dr Byron Hyde MD explains:

    Do not for one minute believe that CFS is simply another name for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It is not. The CDC 1988 definition of CFS describes a non-existing chimera based upon inexperienced individuals who lack any historical knowledge of this disease process. The CDC definition is not a disease process. It is (a) a partial mix of infectious mononucleosis /glandular fever, (b) a mix of some of the least important aspects of M.E. and (c) what amounts to a possibly unintended psychiatric slant to an epidemic and endemic disease process of major importance. Any disease process that has major criteria, of excluding all other disease processes, is simply not a disease at all; it doesn't exist. The CFS definitions were written in such a manner that CFS becomes like a desert mirage: The closer you approach, the faster it disappears (2006, ).

The only way forward for M.E. patients and all of the diverse patient groups commonly misdiagnosed with ‘CFS’ (both of which are denied appropriate support, diagnosis and treatment, and may also be subject to serious medical abuse) is that the bogus disease category of ‘CFS’ must be abandoned. Every patient deserves the best possible opportunity for appropriate treatment for their illness, and for recovery and this process must begin with a correct diagnosis if at all possible. A correct diagnosis is half the battle won (Hyde 2006a, 2006b, ) (Hooper 2006, ) (Hyde 2003, ) (Hooper 2003a, ) (Dowsett 2001a, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Dowsett 1999a, 1999b, ) (Dowsett n.d.,).

    * An additional note on ‘fatigue’: Just as some M.E. sufferers will experience other minor and non-essential symptoms such as vomiting or night sweats some of the time, but others will not, the same is true of fatigue. The diagnosis of M.E. is determined upon the presence of certain neurological, cognitive, cardiac, cardiovascular, immunological, endocrinological, respiratory, hormonal, muscular, gastrointestinal and other symptoms (and so on) – the presence or absence of mere ‘fatigue’ is irrelevant.

What do the terms CFIDS, ME/CFS, CFS/ME, Myalgic Encephalopathy and ME-CFS mean?

When the terms CFS, CFIDS, ME/CFS, CFS/ME, Myalgic Encephalopathy or ME-CFS are used what is being referred to may be patients with/facts relating to any combination of: 1. Miscellaneous psychological and non-psychological fatigue states (including somatisation disorder) 2. A self limiting post-viral fatigue state or syndrome (eg. following glandular fever.) 3. A mixed bag of unrelated, misdiagnosed illnesses (each of which feature fatigue as well as a number of other common symptoms; poor sleep, headaches, muscle pain etc.) including Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, athletes over-training syndrome, depression, burnout, systemic fungal infections (candida) and even various cancers 4. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis patients.

The terminology is often used interchangeably, incorrectly and confusingly. However, the DEFINITIONS of M.E. and CFS are very different and distinct, and it is the definitions of each of these terms which is of primary importance. The distinction must be made between terminology and definitions.

    * Myalgic encephalomyelitis is a systemic acutely acquired illness initiated by a virus infection which is characterised by damage to the brain stem which results in dysfunctions and damage to many of the body’s vital systems and a loss of normal internal homeostasis. M.E. can occur in both epidemic and sporadic forms and can be extremely disabling and in some cases the disease is fatal. M.E. is a chronic/lifelong disease that affects adults and children. If all tests are normal, then a diagnosis of M.E. cannot be correct.

    * Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a man-made construct created in the US in 1988. It is not a distinct disease, but a mere diagnosis of exclusion based on the presence of the symptom of fatigue. If serious abnormalities are found on testing, a person no longer qualifies for a diagnosis of ‘CFS.’ In essence, every diagnosis of CFS can only ever be a misdiagnosis. A diagnosis of ‘CFS’ does not mean a person has any distinct disease, including M.E.

The only thing that makes any sense is for patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, to be studied ONLY under the name Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – and for this term ONLY to be used to refer to a 100% M.E. patient group The only correct name for this illness – M.E. as per Ramsay/Richardson/Dowsett and Hyde – is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. M.E. is not synonymous with CFS, nor is it a subgroup of CFS. (There is no such disease/s as "CFS.’) It is also important that the only terms which are used are those which do have an official and correct World Health Organization classification.

There is no such disease/s as ‘CFS’ – the name CFS and the bogus disease category of CFS must be abandoned (along with the use of other vague and misleading umbrella terms such as ‘ME/CFS’ ‘CFS/ME’ 'CFIDS' and 'Myalgic Encephalopathy' and others), for the benefit of all the patient groups involved.

    * For more information on the name Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (and the problems with some of these other terms including ME’opathy) see: Meitis? A slender string to our bow, The Terminology of ME & CFS, and ME and CFS, The Definitions. See On the name MEitis for more articles.
    * For more information on why the bogus disease category of 'CFS' must be abandoned, (along with the use of other vague and misleading umbrella terms such as ‘ME/CFS’ ‘CFS/ME’ 'CFIDS' and 'Myalgic Encephalopathy' and others), see: The misdiagnosis of CFS, Why the disease category of ‘CFS’ must be abandoned and Smoke and Mirrors

What does the term ICD-CFS mean?

The definitions of CFS do not define M.E. but because an outbreak of M.E. in the US was labelled as being ‘CFS’ at the time (and for other reasons to do with political considerations), some researchers have produced valuable research into M.E. under the name ‘CFS.’ The vast majority (an estimated 95%) of ‘CFS’ research however, does not involve M.E. patients and is not relevant in any way to M.E. patients. So sometimes the new term ‘ICD-CFS’ is used to refer to those studies and articles which while they use the term ‘CFS’ do relate in some way (in whole or in part) to people with authentic Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – as per the World Health Organization’s classification of M.E. as an organic neurological disorder at G.93.3

    * It should be noted however, that virtually all of the research which does relate to M.E. but which uses the term ‘CFS’ (or ME/CFS, or CFIDS etc.) is also contaminated in some way by CFS propaganda. For more information on some of the most common inaccuracies and ‘CFS’ propaganda included in genuine ‘ICD-CFS’ research, see the paper: Putting Research and Articles on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis into Context

What does define Myalgic Encephalomyelitis? What is its symptomatology?

Myalgic encephalomyelitis is a systemic acutely acquired illness initiated by a virus infection which is characterised by post encephalitic damage to the brain stem; a nerve centre through which many spinal nerve tracts connect with higher centres in the brain in order to control all vital bodily functions – this is always damaged in M.E. (Hence the name Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.) The CNS is diffusely injured at several levels, these include the cortex, the limbic system, the basal ganglia, the hypothalamus and areas of the spinal cord and its appendages. This persisting multilevel central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction is undoubtedly both the chief cause of disability in M.E. and the most critical in the definition of the entire disease process.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis represents an acute change in the balance of neuropeptide messengers, and due to this, a resulting loss of the ability of the CNS (the brain) to adequately receive, interpret, store and recover information which enables it to control vital body functions (cognitive, hormonal, cardiovascular, autonomic and sensory nerve communication, digestive, visual auditory balance etc). It is a loss of normal internal homeostasis. The individual can no longer function systemically within normal limits.

M.E. is primarily neurological, but because the brain controls all vital bodily functions virtually every bodily system can be affected by M.E. Again, although M.E. is primarily neurological it is also known that the vascular and cardiac dysfunctions seen in M.E. are also the cause of many of the symptoms and much of the disability associated with M.E. – and that the well-documented mitochondrial abnormalities present in M.E. significantly contribute to both of these pathologies. There is also multi-system involvement of cardiac and skeletal muscle, liver, lymphoid and endocrine organs in M.E. Some individuals also have damage to skeletal and heart muscle. Thus Myalgic Encephalomyelitis symptoms are manifested by virtually all bodily systems including: cognitive, cardiac, cardiovascular, immunological, endocrinological, respiratory, hormonal, gastrointestinal and musculo-skeletal dysfunctions and damage.

M.E. is an infectious neurological disease and represents a major attack on the central nervous system (CNS) – and an associated injury of the immune system – by the chronic effects of a viral infection. There is also transient and/or permanent damage to many other organs and bodily systems (and so on) in M.E. M.E. affects the body systemically. Even minor levels of physical and cognitive activity, sensory input and orthostatic stress beyond a M.E. patient’s individual post-illness limits causes a worsening of the severity of the illness (and of symptoms) which can persist for days, weeks or months or longer. In addition to the risk of relapse, repeated or severe overexertion can also cause permanent damage (eg. to the heart), disease progression and/or death in M.E.

M.E. is not stable from one hour, day, week or month to the next. It is the combination of the chronicity, the dysfunctions, and the instability, the lack of dependability of these functions, that creates the high level of disability in M.E. It is also worth noting that of the CNS dysfunctions, cognitive dysfunction is one of the most disabling characteristics of M.E.

All of this is not simply theory, but is based upon an enormous body of mutually supportive clinical information. These are well-documented, scientifically sound explanations for why patients are bedridden, profoundly intellectually impaired, unable to maintain an upright posture and so on (Chabursky et al. 1992 p. 20) (Hyde 2007, ) (Hyde 2006, ) (Hyde 2003, ) (Dowsett 2001a, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Dowsett 1999a, 1999b, ) (Hyde 1992 pp. x-xxi) (Hyde & Jain 1992 pp. 38 - 43) (Hyde et al. 1992, pp. 25-37) (Dowsett et al. 1990, pp. 285-291) (Ramsay 1986, ) (Dowsett & Ramsay n.d., pp. 81-84) (Richardson n.d., pp. 85-92).

    * What is Homeostasis? Homeostasis is the property of a living organism, to regulate its internal environment to maintain a stable, constant condition, by means of multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustments, controlled by interrelated regulation mechanisms. Homeostasis is one of the fundamental characteristics of living things. It is the maintenance of the internal environment within tolerable limits.

What are some of the symptoms of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

More than 64 distinct symptoms have been authentically documented in M.E. At first glance it may seem that every symptom possible is mentioned, but although people with M.E. have a lot of different minor symptoms because of the way the central nervous system (which controls virtually every bodily system) is affected, the major symptoms of M.E. really are quite distinct and almost identical from one patient to the next. (Hooper & Montague 2001a, ) (Hyde 2006, ) Individual symptoms of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis include:

Sore throat, chills, sweats, low body temperature, low grade fever, lymphadenopathy, muscle weakness (or paralysis), muscle pain, muscle twitches or spasms, gelling of the joints, hypoglycaemia, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, chest pain, cardiac arrhythmia, resting tachycardia, orthostatic tachycardia, orthostatic fainting or faintness, circulatory problems, opthalmoplegia, eye pain, photophobia, blurred vision, wavy visual field, and other visual and neurological disturbances, hyperacuity, tinnitus, alcohol intolerance, gastrointestinal and digestive disturbances, allergies and sensitivities to many previously well-tolerated foods, drug sensitivities, stroke-like episodes, nystagmus, difficulty swallowing, weight changes, paresthesias, polyneuropathy, proprioception difficulties, myoclonus, temporal lobe and other types of seizures, an inability to maintain consciousness for more than short periods at a time, confusion, disorientation, spatial disorientation, disequilibrium, breathing difficulties, emotional lability, sleep disorders; sleep paralysis, fragmented sleep, difficulty initiating sleep, lack of deep-stage sleep and/or a disrupted circadian rhythm.

Neurocognitive dysfunction may include cognitive, motor and perceptual disturbances. Cognitive dysfunction may be pronounced and may include; difficulty or an inability to speak (or understand speech), difficulty or an inability to read or write or to do basic mathematics, difficulty with simultaneous processing, poor concentration, difficulty with sequencing and problems with memory including; difficulty making new memories, difficulty recalling formed memories and difficulties with visual and verbal recall (eg. facial agnosia). There is often a marked loss in verbal and performance intelligence quotient (IQ) in M.E. (Bassett 2007, ).

What other features define or characterise Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

What characterises M.E. every bit as much as the individual neurological, cognitive, cardiac, cardiovascular, immunological, endocrinological, respiratory, hormonal, muscular, gastrointestinal and other symptoms is the way in which people with M.E. respond to physical and cognitive activity, sensory input and orthostatic stress, and so on. In other words, the pattern of symptom exacerbations, relapses and of disease progression.

The way the bodies of people with M.E. react to these activities/stimuli post-illness is unique in a number of ways. Along with a specific type of damage to the brain (the central nervous system) this characteristic is one of the defining features of the illness which must be present for a correct diagnosis of M.E. to be made. The main characteristics of the pattern of symptom exacerbations, relapses and disease progression (and so on) in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis include:

A. People with M.E. are unable to maintain their pre-illness activity levels. This is an acute change; M.E. patients can only achieve 50%, or less, of their pre-illness activity levels post-M.E.

B. People with M.E. are limited in how physically active they can be but they are also limited in similar way with; cognitive exertion, sensory input and orthostatic stress.

C. When a person with M.E. is active beyond their individual (physical, cognitive, sensory or orthostatic) limits this causes a worsening of various neurological, cognitive, cardiac, cardiovascular, immunological, endocrinological, respiratory, hormonal, muscular, gastrointestinal and other symptoms.

D. The level of physical activity, cognitive exertion, sensory input or orthostatic stress needed to cause a significant or severe worsening of symptoms varies from patient to patient, but is often trivial compared to a patient’s pre-illness tolerances and abilities.

E. The severity of M.E. waxes and wanes throughout the hour/day/week and month.

F. The worsening of the illness caused by overexertion can be acute, but often does not reach its peak until 24 - 48 hours (or more) later.

G. If people with M.E. push past their individual limits too deeply or too often, the effects of overexertion can also accumulate over longer periods of time and lead to disease progression, or death.

H. The activity limits of M.E. are not short term, a gradual (or sudden) increase in activity levels beyond a patient’s individual limits can only cause relapse, disease progression or death in patients with M.E.

I. The symptoms of M.E. do not resolve with rest. The symptoms and disability of M.E. are not just caused by overexertion, there is also a base level of illness which can be quite severe even at rest.

J. Repeated overexertion can harm your chances for future improvement in M.E. M.E. patients who are given advice to rest in the early stages of the illness (and who avoid overexertion thereafter) have repeatedly been shown to have the most positive long-term prognosis.

L. Not every M.E. sufferer has ‘safe’ activity limits within which they will not exacerbate their illness, this is not the case for the very severely affected.

What triggers the onset of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

M.E. expert Dr Byron Hyde explains that:

[The] prodromal phase is associated with a short onset or triggering illness. This onset illness usually takes the form of either, or any combination, of the following, (a) an upper respiratory illness, (b) a gastrointestinal upset, (c) vertigo and (d) a moderate to severe meningitic type headache. The usual incubation period of the triggering illness is 4-7 days. The second and third phases of the illness are usually always different in nature from the onset illness and usually become apparent within 1-4 weeks after the onset of the infectious triggering illness (1998 ).

Despite popular opinion (and the vast amount of ‘CFS’ government and media propaganda) there is no link however between contracting M.E. and being a 'perfectionist' or having a ‘type A’ or over-achiever personality. M.E. also cannot be caused by a period of long-term or intense stress, trauma or abuse in childhood, becoming run-down, working too hard or not eating healthily. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is not a form of ‘burnout’ or nervous exhaustion, or the natural result of a body no longer able to cope with long-term stress.

Research also shows that it is simply not possible that M.E. could be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, any of the herpes viruses (including HHV6), glandular fever/mononucleosis, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Ross River virus, Q fever, hepatitis, chicken pox, influenza or any of the bacteria which can result in Lyme disease (or other tick-borne bacterial infections). M.E. is also not a form of chemical poisoning.

M.E. is undoubtedly caused by a virus, a virus with an incubation period of 4-7 days – and there is very good evidence to suggest that the culprit is an enterovirus (Hyde 2006, ) (Hyde 2007, ) (Hooper 2006, ) (Hooper & Marshall 2005a, ) (Hyde 2003a, ) (Dowsett 2001a, ) (Hooper et al. 2001, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Dowsett 1999a, 1999b, ) (Ryll 1994, ).

What does cause Myalgic Encephalomyelitis? Are there outbreaks of M.E.?

One of the most fundamental facts about M.E. throughout its history is that it occurs in epidemics. There is a history of over sixty recorded outbreaks of the illness going back to the 1930’s. In 1934 an epidemic of what seemed at first to be poliomyelitis was reported in Los Angeles. As with many of the other M.E. outbreaks the Los Angeles outbreak occurred during a local polio epidemic.

The presenting illness resembled polio and so for some years the illness was considered to be a variant of polio and classified as ‘Atypical poliomyelitis’ or ‘Non-paralytic polio’ (TCJRME 2007, ) (Hyde 1998, ) (Hyde 2006, ). Many early outbreaks of M.E. were also individually named for their locations and so we also have outbreaks known as Tapanui flu in New Zealand, Akureyri or Icelandic disease in Iceland, Royal Free Disease in the UK, and so on (TCJRME 2007, ) (Hyde 1998, ).

A review of early M.E. outbreaks found that clinical symptoms were consistent in over sixty recorded epidemics spread all over the world (Hyde 1998, ). Despite the different names being used, these were repeated outbreaks of the same illness. It was also confirmed that the epidemic cases of M.E., and the sporadic cases of M.E. each represented the same illness (Hyde 2006, ) (Dowsett 1999a, ).

M.E. is an infectious neurological disease and represents a major attack on the central nervous system (CNS) by the chronic effects of a viral infection. A significant number of the world’s leading M.E. experts believe that M.E., like poliomyelitis, is caused by an enterovirus. The evidence which exists to support this theory is compelling (Hyde 2007, ) (Hyde 2006, ). An enterovirus would explain the; age variation, sex variation, obvious resistance of some family members to the infection and the effect of physical activity (particularly in the early stages of the illness) in creating more long-term/severe M.E. illness in the host (Hyde & Jain 1992a, p. 40).

There is also the evidence that; M.E. epidemics very often followed polio epidemics, M.E. resembles polio at onset, serological studies have shown that communities affected by an outbreak of M.E. were effectively blocked (or immune) from the effects of a subsequent polio outbreak, evidence of enteroviral infection has been found in the brain tissue of M.E. patients at autopsy, and so on (Hyde 2007, ) (Hyde 2006, ) (Hyde 2003, ) (Dowsett 2001a, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Dowsett 1999a, 1999b, ) (Hyde 1992 p. xi) (Hyde & Jain 1992 pp. 38 - 43) (Hyde et al. 1992, pp. 25-37) (Dowsett et al. 1990, pp. 285-291) (Ramsay 1986, ).

The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) placed ‘CFS’ on its "Priority One; New and Emerging" list of infectious diseases some years ago; a list that also includes Lyme disease, hepatitis C, and malaria’ (Gellman & Verillo 1997, p. 19). But no real research into transmissibility (or more importantly on reducing infection rates) has been done by any government on patients with M.E. (or ‘CFS’) despite ample evidence that this is an infectious disease. There have been many well-documented clusters or outbreaks of the illness, reports of as many as 4.5% of M.E. sufferers contracting the illness immediately after blood transfusions (or after needle-stick injuries involving the blood of M.E. patients), evidence of the disease spreading through casual contact amongst family members and so on (Johnson, 1996) (Carruthers et al. 2003, p.79).

As Dr Elizabeth Dowsett explains: ‘The problem we face is that, in spite of overwhelming epidemiological and technical evidence of an infectious case, the truth is being suppressed by the government and the 'official' M.E. charities as 'too scary' for the general public.’ (1999b, ) This pretence of ignorance on behalf of government worldwide has had enormous consequences; only in the UK are people with M.E. specifically banned from donating blood for example. So it is that the number of people infected with M.E. continues to rise unabated and largely unnoticed by the public (Johnson, 1996).

Is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis difficult to diagnose? What tests can be used to diagnose M.E.?

M.E. is a distinct, recognisable disease entity that is not difficult to diagnose and can in fact be diagnosed relatively early in the course of the disease (within just a few weeks) – providing that the physician has some experience with the illness. There is just no other illness that is even remotely like M.E.

Although there is as yet no single test which can be used to diagnose M.E. there are (as with Lupus and multiple sclerosis and ovarian cancer and many other illnesses) a series of tests which can confirm a suspected M.E. diagnosis. Virtually every M.E. patient will also have various abnormalities visible on physical exam. If all tests are normal, if specific abnormalities are not seen on certain of these tests (eg. brain scans), then a diagnosis of M.E. cannot be correct (Hyde 2007, ) (Hyde 2006, ) (Hooper et al. 2001, ) (Chabursky et al. 1992, p.22). As M.E. expert Dr Byron Hyde MD explains:

The one essential characteristic of M.E. is acquired CNS dysfunction. A patient with M.E. is a patient whose primary disease is CNS change, and this is measurable. We have excellent tools for measuring these physiological and neuropsychological changes: SPECT, xenon SPECT, PET, and neuropsychological testing (2003, ).

Thus it is these tests which are therefore most critical in the diagnosis of M.E., although various other types of tests are also useful. New TESTABLE definitions such as The Nightingale Definition of M.E. now also make diagnosis easier than ever before; even for those with no experience with the illness (Hyde 2007, ) (Hyde 2006, ) (Hooper & Marshall 2005a, ) (Hyde 2003, ) (Dowsett 2001a, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Hyde 1992 p. xi) (Hyde & Jain 1992 pp. 38 - 43) (Hyde et al. 1992, pp. 25-37) (Dowsett et al. 1990, pp. 285-291) (Ramsay 1986, ) (Dowsett n.d., ) (Dowsett & Ramsay n.d., pp. 81-84) (Richardson n.d., pp. 85-92).

    * Objective scientific tests are available which can aid in the diagnosis of M.E. (and easily prove the severe abnormalities across many different bodily systems seen in M.E.), but unfortunately many patients are not given access to these tests. For more information on the lack of access to appropriate testing for M.E. patients see: The Montague/Hooper Paper

How common is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis? Who get M.E. and how?

Although the illness we now know as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis has existed for centuries, for much of that time it was a relatively uncommon disease. Following the mass polio vaccination programs of the 1960s cases of polio were greatly reduced and outbreaks of M.E. seemed to be similarly affected. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that M.E. began its dramatic increase in incidence worldwide. Over 20 years later, M.E. is a worldwide epidemic of devastating proportions. Many people have died from M.E. and there are now many hundreds of thousands of people severely disabled by this epidemic (TCJRME 2007, ) (Hyde 1992, p. xi).

The main period of infectivity of M.E. peaks at the time just before symptoms appear through to the initial acute phase of the illness (which lasts for several months or in some cases years). M.E. appears to be highly infective but also highly selective. The major mode of infectivity is by airborne or respiratory route. Modes of transmission are thought to include: casual contact (respiratory), salivary transmission (eg. kissing), sexual transmission and transmission through blood products. (Hyde et al. 1992, pp. 25 - 37) (A recent study of 752 patients found that 4.5% of them – almost one in twenty – had had a blood transfusion days or a week before experiencing acute onset of M.E., for example) (Carruthers et al. 2003, ). (Hyde et al. 1992, pp. 25 - 37).

M.E. has a similar strike rate to multiple sclerosis (or possibly somewhat higher), and is estimated to affect roughly 0.2% of the population. Children and teenagers are also susceptible to the illness and children as young as five have been diagnosed with M.E. (M.E. can occur in children younger than five, but this is thought to be rare.) All ages are affected but most commonly sufferers are under 45 at onset. Women are affected around three times as often as men, a ratio common in autoimmune disorders, although in children the sexes seem to be afflicted equally.

M.E. affects all races and socio-economic groups and has been diagnosed all over the world. There are more than a million M.E. sufferers worldwide (Hooper et al. 2001 ) (Hyde 1992, pp. x - xxi).

    * The CDC have recently released vastly inflated estimates for ‘CFS’ but it should be noted that the number of people suffering with mild fatigue has no more relevance to patients with M.E. to those with MS or AIDS or any other distinct illness.

Are there any treatments for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

Whilst there is no cure as yet, or treatments which can dramatically influence the course of the illness due to the appalling lack of funding into research; intelligent nutritional, pharmaceutical and other interventions can make a significant difference to a patient's life. Appropriate biomedical diagnostic testing should be done as a matter of course (and repeated regularly) to ensure that the aspects of the illness which are able to be treated can be diagnosed, monitored and then treated as appropriate. Testing is also important so that dangerous deficiencies and dysfunctions (which may place the patient at significant risk) are not overlooked (Hooper at al. 2001 ).

What is known about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis so far?

There is an abundance of research which shows that M.E. is an organic illness which can have profound effects on many bodily systems. These are well-documented, scientifically sound explanations for why patients are bedridden, profoundly intellectually impaired, unable to maintain an upright posture and so on. More than a thousand good articles now support the basic premises of M.E. Autopsies have also confirmed such reports of bodily damage and infection (Hooper & Williams 2005a, ).

Many different organic abnormalities have been found in M.E. patients (in peer reviewed research). Patient advocates Margaret Williams and Eileen Marshall explain that:

    * there is evidence of disrupted biology at cell membrane level
    * there is evidence of abnormal brain metabolism
    * there is evidence of widespread cerebral hypoperfusion
    * there is evidence of central nervous system immune dysfunction
    * there is evidence of central nervous system inflammation and demyelination
    * there is evidence of hypomyelination
    * there is evidence that Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a complex, serious multi-system autoimmune disorder (in Belgium, the disorder has now been placed between multiple sclerosis and Lupus)
    * there is evidence of significant neutrophil apoptosis
    * there is evidence that the immune system is chronically activated (eg. the CD4:CD8 ratio may be grossly elevated)
    * there is evidence that natural killer (NK) cell activity is impaired (ie. diminished)
    * there is evidence that the vascular biology is abnormal, with disrupted endothelial function
    * there is novel evidence of significantly elevated levels of isoprostanes
    * there is evidence of cardiac insufficiency and that patients are in a form of cardiac failure (which is exacerbated by even trivial levels of physical activity, cognitive activity and orthostatic stress)
    * there is evidence of autonomic dysfunction (especially thermodysregulation; frequency of micturition with nocturia; labile blood pressure; pooling of blood in the lower limbs; reduced blood volume (with orthostatic tachycardia and orthostatic hypotension. Findings of a circulating blood volume of only 75% of expected are common, and in some patients the level is only 50% of expected.)
    * there is evidence of respiratory dysfunction, with reduced lung function in all parameters tested
    * there is evidence of neuroendocrine dysfunction (notably HPA axis dysfunction)
    * there is evidence of recovery rates for oxygen saturation that are 60% lower than those in normal controls
    * there is evidence of delayed recovery of muscles after exercise. (Affecting all muscles including the heart.)
    * there is evidence of a sensitive marker of muscle inflammation
    * there is evidence that the size of the adrenal glands is reduced by 50%, with reduced cortisol levels
    * there is evidence of at least 35 abnormal genes, (these are acquired genetic changes, not hereditary), specifically those that are important in metabolism; there are more abnormal genes in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis than there are in cancer
    * there is evidence of serious cognitive impairment. (Worse than occurs in AIDS dementia)
    * there is evidence of adverse reactions to medicinal drugs, especially those acting on the CNS
    * there is evidence that symptoms fluctuate markedly from day to day and even from hour to hour (2006, )

(Note that this is only a sample of some of the research available, not an exhaustive list.) It is known that Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is:

   1. An acute onset (biphasic) epidemic or endemic infectious disease process
   2. An autoimmune disease (with similarities to Lupus)
   3. An infectious neurological disease, affecting adults and children
   4. A disease which involves significant (and at times profound) cognitive impairment/dysfunction
   5. A persistent viral infection (most likely due to an enterovirus; the same type of virus which causes poliomyelitis and post-polio syndrome)
   6. A diffuse and measurable injury to the vascular system of the central nervous system (the brain)
   7. A central nervous system (CNS) disease (with similarities to MS)
   8. A variable (but always, serious) diffuse (acquired) brain injury
   9. A systemic illness (associated with organ pathology; particularly cardiac)
  10. A vascular disease
  11. A cardiovascular disease
  12. A type of cardiac insufficiency
  13. A mitochondrial disease
  14. A metabolic disorder
  15. A musculo-skeletal disorder
  16. A neuroendocrine disease
  17. A seizure disorder
  18. A sleep disorder
  19. A gastrointestinal disorder
  20. A respiratory disorder
  21. An allergic disorder
  22. A pain disorder
  23. A life-altering disease
  24. A chronic or lifelong disease associated with a high level of disability
  25. An unstable disease; from one hour/day/week or month to the next
  26. A potentially progressive or fatal disease (Hyde 2007, ) (Hooper et al. 2001, ) (Cheney 2007, [video recording]) (Ramsay 1986, )

    * Myalgic Encephalomyelitis affects every cell in the body. For more information see the General articles and research overviews section. See also articles by: Dr. Elizabeth Dowsett and Byron Hyde MD.

Is there a legitimate scientific debate about whether or not M.E. is a ‘real’ medical condition?

Despite popular opinion, there simply is no legitimate scientifically motivated debate about whether or not M.E. is a ‘real’ illness or not or has a biological basis. The psychological or behavioural theories of M.E. are no more scientifically viable than are the theories of a ‘flat earth.’ They are pure fiction.

Similar Medical Conditions?

There are a number of post-viral fatigue states or 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 (and is not caused by the Epstein Barr virus or any of the herpes or hepatitis viruses). People suffering with any of these post-viral fatigue syndromes do not have M.E.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis does have some limited similarities – to varying degrees – to illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, Lupus, post-polio syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome and chronic Lyme disease, and others. But this does not mean that they represent the same etiological or pathobiological process. They do not. M.E. is a distinct neurological illness with a distinct; onset, symptoms, aetiology, pathology, response to treatment, long and short term prognosis – and World Health Organization classification (G.93.3) (Hyde 2006, ) (Hyde 2007, ) (Hooper 2006, ) (Hooper & Marshall 2005a, ) (Hyde 2003a, ) (Dowsett 2001a, ) (Hooper et al. 2001, ) (Dowsett 2000, ) (Dowsett 1999a, 1999b, )

How well is research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis research funded by government?

Governments around the world are currently spending $0 a year on M.E. research. Considering the brutal severity of the illness, the vast numbers of patients involved, this is a worldwide disgrace.

    * See Research and Articles in Context for more information about research into M.E. and the challenges involved. See the Donations page to make a donation towards M.E. research and advocacy.

Abuse and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Two of the most common interventions people with M.E. are recommended to participate in are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET).

However, despite the misleading claims to the contrary made by various vested interest groups, no evidence exists which shows that CBT and GET are appropriate, useful or safe treatments for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis patients. Studies by these groups (and others) involving miscellaneous psychiatric and non-psychiatric ‘fatigue’ sufferers, and their positive response to these treatments, have no more relevance to M.E. sufferers than they do to diabetes patients, patients with multiple sclerosis or any other illness. Thus, patients with M.E. are routinely being prescribed these treatments on what amounts to a ‘random’ basis medically.

As (bad) luck would have it, graded exercise programs are probably the single most inappropriate ‘treatment’ that a M.E. sufferer could be recommended to undertake. Permanent damage may be caused, as well as disease progression. Patient accounts of leaving exercise programs much more severely ill than when they began them; wheelchair-bound or bed-bound or needing intensive care or cardiac care units, are common. The damage caused is often severe and either long-term or permanent; thus some patients are still dealing with the effects of inappropriate advice to exercise five or ten or more YEARS afterward and for some patients this damage is permanent. Sudden deaths have also been reported in a small percentage of M.E. patients following exercise.

CBT and GET are at best useless and at worst extremely harmful for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis patients. Despite this, people with M.E. are routinely being recommended these ‘treatments’ while also being assured that they are completely safe. These interventions are also not just being offered to M.E. patients solely on a voluntary basis; many have been treated as psychiatric patients against their will (or against the will of the parents of children with M.E.). In some cases it is a condition of receiving medical insurance or government welfare entitlements that M.E. patients first undergo ‘rehabilitation’ such as CBT and GET programs, particularly in the UK.

If a prescription drug had anything like the appalling track record exercise has with people with M.E. (or even a small fraction of it; even 2%) it would be an enormous worldwide scandal. The drug would be immediately banned, there would be some form of inquiry and serious criminal charges may well be laid. Yet the rate of people with M.E. recommended or even forced to exercise continues to rise, and with the full support of government etc. This is despite the fact that legitimate research clearly shows that along with the huge risk involved, it has a ZERO percent chance of providing any benefit to people with authentic M.E. That this can be allowed to go on in such a supposedly enlightened day and age as ours defies belief.

It is also of great concern that so many M.E. patients are ONLY offered ‘treatments’ such as CBT and GET – while access to even basic appropriate medical care is withheld. Of the 25% of patients who are severely affected by the illness (and are bed-bound and housebound) around the majority have no contact with the health service at all as they are seldom able to obtain housecalls, for example (Dunn 2005, ). Many sufferers are also refused the basic welfare support to which they are entitled. Thus a significant percentage of very physically ill and vulnerable M.E. patients are simply left to suffer and die at home without any medical care or welfare or social support (Hooper 2003a, ).

    * These brief comments on the effects of CBT and GET are taken from the more detailed paper: The effects of CBT and GET on patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, see this paper for more information.
    * For more information about the effects of overexertion on M.E. patients, including statements/research from some of the world’s leading M.E. experts about why overexertion is so physically harmful, see: Smoke and Mirrors. (This paper also includes links to many different patient accounts of the effects of overexertion on people with M.E.).
    * A recent example of a M.E. sufferer being taken into psychiatric care against their will is the case of Sophia Mirza in the UK. Tragically, Sophia died of her illness shortly after being wrongly sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Sophia was severely ill with M.E. and bedbound but she was refused even basic medial care, and this is believed to have contributed greatly to her death. For more information on this tragic case, and entirely avoidable death, see: Inquest Implications, Civilization: Another word for barbarism and The Story of Sophia and M.E. For more information about forced exercise and other ‘treatments’ used on M.E. patients see the 100+ page CBT and GET Database.

It is only Myalgic Encephalomyelitis patients who are negatively affected by the bogus creation of ‘CFS’?

Other patient groups misdiagnosed as CFS are also denied appropriate diagnosis and treatment and they may also routinely be subjected to inappropriate psychological interventions such as CBT and GET. There are also a variety of negative impacts on doctors and the public (and others) caused by the ‘CFS’ insurance scam. Truly the only groups which gain from the ‘CFS’ confusion are insurance companies and various other organisations and corporations which have a vested financial interest in how these patients are treated, including the government.

How severe is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

Although some people do have more moderate versions of the illness, symptoms are extremely severe for at least 25-30% of the people who have M.E.; significant numbers of whom are housebound and bedbound.

Dr. Paul Cheney stated before a US FDA Scientific Advisory Committee:

I have evaluated over 2,500 cases. At worst, it is a nightmare of increasing disability with both physical and neurocognitive components. The worst cases have both an MS-like and an AIDS-like clinical appearance. We have lost five cases in the last six months. 80% of cases are unable to work or attend school. We admit regularly to hospital with an inability to care for self. (Hooper et al. 2001 )

Dr Dan Peterson found that: ‘M.E. patients experienced greater "functional severity" than the studied patients with heart disease, virtually all types of cancer, and all other chronic illnesses.’ An unrelated study compared the quality of life of people with various illnesses, including patients undergoing chemotherapy or haemodialysis, as well as those with HIV, liver transplants, coronary artery disease, and other ailments, and again found that M.E. patients scored the lowest. "In other words", said one M.E. expert in a radio interview, "this disease is actually more debilitating than just about any other medical problem in the world" (Munson 2000, p. 4).

In the 1980s Mark Loveless, an infectious disease specialist and head of the AIDS and M.E. Clinic at Oregon Health Sciences University, found that M.E. patients whom he saw had far lower scores on the Karnofsky performance scale than his HIV patients even in the last week of their life. He testified that a M.E. patient, ‘feels effectively the same every day as an AIDS patient feels two weeks before death’ (Hooper & Marshall 2005a, ). But in M.E., this extremely high level of illness is not short-term – it does not always lead to death – it can instead continue uninterrupted for decades.

    * For more information on severe M.E. see The severity of M.E. and M.E. Fatalities
    * It should also be noted that even those patients with moderate M.E. are far more severely affected than many patients with a variety of other illnesses. Of course severe M.E. is even worse, but moderate M.E. can also cause severe symptoms and a relatively high level of disability and suffering, compared to many other illnesses.

Recovery from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis patients who are given advice to rest in the early stages of the illness (and who avoid overexertion thereafter) have repeatedly been shown to have the most positive long-term prognosis. As M.E. expert Dr Melvin Ramsay M.D. explains; ‘The degree of physical incapacity varies greatly, but the [level of severity] is directly related to the length of time the patient persists in physical effort after its onset; put in another way, those patients who are given a period of enforced rest from the onset have the best prognosis. Since the limitations which the disease imposes vary considerably from case to case, the responsibility for determining these rests upon the patient. Once these are ascertained the patient is advised to fashion a pattern of living that comes well within them’ (1986).

M.E. can be progressive, degenerative (change of tissue to a lower or less functioning form, as in heart failure), chronic, or relapsing and remitting. Some patients experience spontaneous remissions albeit most often at a greatly reduced level of functioning compared to pre-illness and such patients remain susceptible to relapses for the remainder of their lives – M.E. is a chronic/life-long disability where relapse is always possible. Cycles of severe relapse are common, as are further symptoms developing over time. Around 30% of cases are progressive and degenerative and sometimes M.E. is fatal. As Dr Elizabeth Dowsett explains:

After a variable interval, a multi-system syndrome may develop, involving permanent damage to skeletal or cardiac muscle and to other "end organs" such as the liver, pancreas, endocrine glands and lymphoid tissues, signifying the further development of a lengthy chronic, mainly neurological condition with evidence of metabolic dysfunction in the brain stem. Yet, stabilisation, albeit at a low level, can still be achieved by appropriate management and support. The death rate of 10% occurs almost entirely from end-organ damage within this group (mainly from cardiac or pancreatic failure) (2001a, ).

Clearly, many people with M.E. are significantly or severely disabled. But what is so tragic about this high level of suffering is that so much of it is needless. The correct type of support (financial, medical and practical) can do much to prevent the physical, occupational and other deterioration in the quality of life for M.E. patients and can stabilise the illness (Dowsett 2002b, ). Many deaths from M.E. could also have been prevented if only those patients had been given a basic level of support and care made available to patients with illnesses with comparable care needs such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease.

Where do we go from here?

Sub-grouping different types of ’CFS,’ refining the bogus ‘CFS’ definitions further or renaming ‘CFS’ with some variation on the term M.E. would achieve nothing and only create yet more confusion and mistreatment. The problem is not that ‘CFS’ patients are being mistreated as psychiatric patients; some of those patients misdiagnosed with CFS actually do have psychological illnesses. There is no such distinct disease/s as ‘CFS’ – that is the entire issue, and the vast majority of patients misdiagnosed with CFS do not have M.E. and so have no more right to that term than to ‘cancer’ or ‘diabetes.’ The only way forward, for the benefit of society and every patient group involved, is that:

1. The bogus disease category of ‘CFS’ must be abandoned completely. Patients with fatigue (and other symptoms) caused by a variety of different illnesses need to be diagnosed correctly with these illnesses if they are to have any chance of recovery; not given a meaningless Oxford or Fukuda ‘CFS’ misdiagnosis. Patients with M.E. need this same opportunity. Each of the patient groups involved must again be correctly diagnosed and then treated as appropriate based on legitimate and unbiased science involving the SAME patient group.

2. The name Myalgic Encephalomyelitis must be fully restored (to the exclusion of all others) and the World Health Organization classification of M.E. (as a distinct neurological disease) must be accepted and adhered to in all official documentations and government policy. As Professor Malcolm Hooper explains:

    The term myalgic encephalomyelitis was first coined by Ramsay and Richardson and has been included by the World Health Organisation (WHO in their International Classification of Diseases (ICD), since 1969. The currently version ICD-10 lists M.E. under G.93.3 - neurological conditions. It cannot be emphasised too strongly that this recognition emerged from meticulous clinical observation and examination. (2006, )

3. People with M.E. must immediately stop being treated as if they are mentally ill, or suffer with a behavioural illness, or as if their physical symptoms do not exist or can be improved with ‘positive thinking’ and exercise – or mixed in with various ‘fatigue’ sufferers in any way or patients with any other illness than authentic Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. People with M.E. must also be given access to basic medical care, financial support and other appropriate services (including funding for legitimate M.E. research) on an equal level to what is available for those with comparable illnesses (eg. multiple sclerosis or Lupus). The facts about M.E. must again be taught to medical students, and included in mainstream medical journals, and so on.

What can you do to help?

People with M.E. have only a tiny minority of the medical, scientific, legal and other potentially supporting professions – or the public – on their side. As the Committee for Justice and Recognition of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis explain:

There is no immunity to M.E. The next victim of this horrible disease could be your sister, your friend, your brother, your grandchildren, your neighbour [or] your co-worker. M.E. is an infectious disease that has become a widespread epidemic that is not going away. We must join together, alert the public and demand action (2007, ).

That is what is needed; people from all over the world to stand up for the truth about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Individual physicians, journalists, politicians, human rights campaigners, patients, families and friends of patients and the public – whether they are affected yet by M.E. or not. That is the only way change will occur; through education and people simply refusing to accept what is happening any more.

So what you can do to help is to PLEASE help to spread the truth about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

This appalling abuse and neglect of so many severely ill people on such an industrial scale is truly inhuman and has already gone on for far too long.

People with M.E. desperately need your help.

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