Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), are the names given to a poorly understood disorder, whose cause remains uncertain. ME usually starts very suddenly and is accompanied by flu-like symptoms.

Getting lives back on track

At Priory we recognise that everyone's situation is different, which is why we ensure that everyone has a unique treatment plan tailored to their needs. 

What are the symptoms of ME?

ME is more likely to occur in winter and can often be an effect of a viral infection or severe stress. As such, the syndrome is often not taken as seriously as people believe that it should be.

Fatigue is a common symptom in many illnesses but ME is a relatively rare disease.  In order to be diagnosed with ME, the individual must display severe mental and physical exhaustion which does not improve with rest and worsens with exertion. These symptoms must be present for at least six months and will not be a result of any other medical condition. Associated symptoms include:

  • Marked fatigue after exertion
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Concentration problems and short term memory impairment
  • Flu-like symptoms

Individuals report marked and critical reductions in levels of physical activity which are comparable to the degree of disability caused by conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), AIDS, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The capabilities of patients with ME can differ greatly. Whilst some people are able to continue leading a relatively normal life, others will be unable to take care of themselves and may be completely bed-bound.

Care and management of ME

The most effective known management strategy for treating ME is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This treatment helps patients to understand their specific symptoms and develop strategies to improve their everyday life. Stepped exercise programmes are also an alternative treatment option.

How Priory can help to support you

The type and length of treatment is dependent on the individual's circumstances and the severity of the condition. Some patients are treated as outpatients, which means they come to Priory for hourly sessions with their consultant, psychologist or therapist. Others require a more structured treatment approach which can include staying at one of our Priory hospitals as an inpatient for the duration of their treatment where they take part in the psychological group programme as well as regular sessions with their consultant.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), please call 0800 840 3219. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

More Info

Who does ME affect?

It is thought that ME occurs more often in women than in men, and usually affects people in their 40s and 50s. There is no definitive medical test which can act as a diagnosis of the condition, with diagnosis based predominantly on patient history and symptomatic criteria. Due to the problems in defining and identifying ME, it is difficult to estimate its prevalence throughout the world. It would appear that the condition affects all ethnicities, however lower income groups seem slightly more susceptible to the illness. While there are more cases of ME occurring in women than in men, this could be in part, due to men not seeking medical help.

Why does ME occur?

The cause of ME is still relatively unclear, although there are theories surrounding exposure to chemicals and stress which could contribute to the impaired immunity of the condition. Some researchers believe that patients who obsess and fixate on their ME can worsen their illness, whilst a lack of support from friends and family can delay recovery. Finding the right balance is one of the key steps in overcoming the condition.

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