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Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), is a serious, chronic, complex, and systemic disease associated with neurological, immunological, autonomic, and energy metabolism dysfunction (Institute of Medicine, 2015). Individuals with ME/CFS experience a range of symptoms including significant impairment in function, post-exertional malaise, sleep impairment, cognitive issues, pain, orthostatic intolerance, flu-like symptoms, sensory intolerance, gastrointestinal and genitourinary issues. Post-exertional malaise (PEM) is the hallmark of the disease in which even trivial amounts of activity result in a prolonged exacerbation of symptoms and a further reduction in function.
The cause(s) of ME/CFS are unknown, but many individuals with the disease remain ill after an acute infection with symptoms that persist for six or more months. There is no diagnostic test or FDA-approved treatment for ME/CFS.
According to the CDC, 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans have ME/CFS. At least one-quarter of individuals with ME/CFS are bedbound or housebound at some point in the disease 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.
This page last reviewed on August 12, 2022