Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a complex disease which is characterized by unexplained, persistent, and relapsing fatigue. There is an indication of underlying abnormalities in the immune system, the nervous system, and metabolic function in this disease.
The diagnosis of ME can be somehow difficult due to the lack of a test with suitable sensitivity and specificity. There is no known cure for myalgic encephalomyelitis, though treatment may help to ease signs.
However, you are likely to be referred to an expert who will offer you proper support and treatment. Treatments which may be considered include the following.
Management of your symptoms
Painkillers may help if joint or muscle pains are worrying symptoms. Eating little and often may help a feeling of nausea. However, specific diets have not been shown to be beneficial.
Depression is also probable in individuals with ME – as it can in many other chronic diseases like heart disease. Depression can make symptoms worse. Therefore, antidepressants may be prescribed if depression develops.
Management of quality of life and function
Myalgic encephalomyelitis can affect anyone. For it, the most common age to develop is in the early twenties to mid-forties. However, management of quality life and function can help improve its signs and symptoms.
- Managing your sleep; any changes to sleep pattern (for instance, having too little, or too much, sleep) may, in fact, make your tiredness worse. This includes daytime sleeping, which should be avoided. Also, any changes to sleep pattern should be done slowly.
- Managing rest; setting aside times to rest is very useful. Therefore, try to introduce rest periods into your daily routine which should be limited to 30 minutes ideally at a time.
- Relaxation; it can help improve pain, sleep problems and stress or anxiety you may have. There are several relaxation techniques which you may find beneficial when they are built into your rest episodes.
- Diet; it is important that you have a well-balanced diet. Other than that, try to avoid any drinks and foods to which you are sensitive. Eating small, regular meals containing some starchy foods is often useful.
Specific treatments for ME
Currently, there is no cure for myalgic encephalomyelitis but medications can be used to control some of its symptoms, such as pain and sleep disturbance.
Managing activity is the most important part of treatment. The activity must be gradually increased within your specific signs and restrictions. Professional help is required at an early stage, comprising physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
One therapy that has worked for those people who’ve tried is called reverse therapy (RT). This therapy can teach you to find the triggers which either cause your signs or make them worse. When you are aware of these triggers then it becomes easier to avoid some of the causes.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or graded exercise therapy (GET) have been suggested to treat individuals with ME. GET is a regular, progressive increase in physical activity, such as walking or swimming. The level of exercise suggested will depend upon your signs and current level of activity.
The experience of chronic fatigue syndrome differs from person to person. Depending on the severity of the disease, other support may be required. For example, nursing support, equipment, and home adaptations to help overcome disability.
As there is only restricted success with conventional treatments, it is clear that people turn to complementary physicians. Most people with ME find therapies helpful. But, there is not enough research indication to support the use of complementary therapies for ME.
There is also inadequate evidence to recommend the supplement use (for example, vitamins).
Managing setbacks (relapses)
It can be very common to have setbacks when signs become worse for a while. However, these can have several triggers – for instance, stress, poor sleep or infection.
Your physician may discuss strategies which may help you during a setback. These may include talking with your family, relaxation techniques, and finding the right balance between activity and rest. However, it may be essential for you to reduce or stop some of your activities and increase the rest time you have during a setback.