This is a severely disabling disease, which describes a subset of people diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome each year.
For moderate to severe patients, it's like living with late-stage cancer, full-blown AIDS, or congestive heart failure, for decades.
1 million Americans have this disease. 250,000 Brits. Over 100,000 Canadians and Australians. 85% are women.
The US National Institutes of Health will allocate $2.8 million for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome research this year, a fraction of which will go to study patients who have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It will allocate $16 million to study male pattern baldness.
ME occurs in outbreak, cluster, and sporadic form. In the 1980s, the rate of new cases of ME was higher than the rate of new cases of polio at the height of the polio epidemic.
Although the cause is not known, the effects can be devastating. Patients can have severely dysfunctional immune systems, brain damage, mitochondrial dysfunction, and a perverse response to ordinary exertion.
The symptoms associated with this damage can leave many homebound or bedbound for decades.
Even though these abnormalities have been demonstrated in a research setting, they are usually invisible on standard tests. As a result, many doctors will diagnose their most severely ill patients with hysteria. Or tell them to try a new haircut.
As few as 4% of severely ill patients recover.
To learn more about the symptoms of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, please see the International Consensus Criteria.