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Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), sometimes referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a debilitating disease that lacks a universally accepted case definition, cause, diagnosis, or treatment. According to the CDC, more than one million Americans have CFS. At least one-quarter of individuals with ME/CFS are bedbound or housebound at some point in the illness and most never regain their pre-disease level of functioning. ME/CFS strikes people of all ages and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and is diagnosed two to four times more often in women.
The disease is characterized by at least six months of incapacitating fatigue experienced as profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina, and problems with concentration and short-term memory. It is sometimes preceded by flu-like symptoms followed by pain in the joints and muscles, unrefreshing sleep, tender lymph nodes, sore throat, and headache. A distinctive characteristic of the illness is post-exertion malaise, which is a worsening of symptoms following physical or mental exertion occurring within 12-48 hours of the exertion and requiring an extended recovery period. Although the cause of ME/CFS remains unknown, symptoms may be triggered by an infection.
This page last reviewed on February 6, 2017