M.E : facts and figures


M.E is an illness.  M.E stands for Myalgic Encephalomyeltis, which means muscle ("myalgic") and head ("encephalitic") symptoms.  M.E is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The illness can last for years, symptoms vary from person to person and often fluctuate, even daily.

The most common are: 

  • Extreme physical & mental fatigue
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Visual disturbances
  • Digestive disorders
  • Loss of balance and co-ordination
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Poor temperature control
  • Sore throat/swollen glands
  • Depression



M.E affects men, women and children of all ages, social classes and ethnic origins. 

Its is estimated that over 250,000 people suffer in this country, of which 25,000 are children and of which 25% are either house or bed-bound and unable to look after themselves. 

Most cases are mild or moderate, but 1 in 4 are severely effected.

MILD - able to care for yourself, but may need plenty of rest or days off work.

MODERATE - may have reduced mobility, symptoms vary, may have to nap frequently.

SEVERE - able to perform minimal tasks like cleaning teeth, but will have significant mobility issues and lots of symptoms. 

DIAGNOSIS - specific guidelines issued by NICE, say that if you meet the criteria regarding fatigue and it can't be explained by any other condition and your symptoms have lasted for several months then you will be diagnosed with CFS.

What causes M.E/CFS?

The exact causes are not known, often M.E/CFS will start after an ordinary viral infection - flu, glandular fever or even a cold.

However, in some cases there may be no obvious viral "trigger" at all and the person may "slide" into the illness over a period of months or even years and often experience a combination of factors including illness, stress and bereavement.


How is M.E/CFS treated?

There is currently no cure, but there are treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with.

A combination of: 

medication - eg for sleep problems, nausea and pain control 

talking therapies - CBT 

lifestyle changes - relaxation techniques & structured exercise programmes (GET)/stretches

Learning to Pace 

Many people also find that support groups are helpful, as they can talk to people who understand what they are going through.