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Chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis). What we need to know

Myalgic encephalopathy, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a debilitating disease and is usually the result of physical or psycho-emotional exhaustion. The disease is characterized by severe fatigue, headache, joint and muscle pain, nausea, respiratory infection-like symptoms. It occurs in all socio-ethnic-racial groups, predominantly in women. The severity of the disease is variable. In severe cases, almost 25% of patients become housebound and bedridden.

The disease was described 70 years ago. The condition is often, but not always, preceded by an infectious process, although the pathogenesis and mechanism of development of the disease have not been fully established. People with this diagnostics have a wide range of symptoms for quite a long time.

It is difficult for the patient to perform usual physical activity. In severe cases, it may be difficult to get out of bed.

Since the cause of the condition is multiple, diagnostic criteria have been developed over the years, based on the main symptoms and clinical data. Criteria are based on new-onset severe fatigue lasting more than 6 months.

It is quite difficult to distinguish chronic fatigue from exhaustion caused by other causes (e.g. stress). A large number of patients who refer to a specialist with this condition are diagnosed with various pathologies.



The manifestation of the disease, as well as the intensity of the symptoms, is individual in different people, characterized by:

  • Extreme fatigue after physical or mental exertion
  • Memory and thinking problems
  • Vertigo that worsens when moving to a vertical position.
  • Muscle and/or joint pain
  • Insufficient sleep

The symptoms are periodically accompanied by headache and throat pain, enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck and armpits. Increased sensitivity to light, sounds, food, drugs, aromas is also characteristic.



The exact cause of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown and is usually the result of an interaction of several factors.

  • genetics. There are familial forms of the condition
  • infections. The disease often begins after viral or bacterial diseases
  • Physical or emotional trauma. Some patients associate the onset of the disease with surgical intervention or psycho-emotional stress.

Some chronic diseases and conditions are masked by the symptom complex of chronic fatigue syndrome, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Tumors
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Eating disorders
  • Side effects of medications
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Hyper or hypothyroidism
  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Lyme disease
  • mononucleosis
  • multiple sclerosis
  • sleep disorders
  • Mental health issues and more


Risk factors

  • Age. Myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome develops at any age, although it is more common in middle-aged adults.
  • Sex. The disease is more common in women than in men. However, the reason for this is that women report complaints more often than men.
  • Other medical problems. Chronic fatigue syndrome is more common in people with a history of fibromyalgia, postural orthostatic tachycardia, and other pathologies.



Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by periodic decrease-intensification of symptoms. This prevents people from establishing a regular routine.



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