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May 15, 2024

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), more commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is a complex and often misunderstood condition that affects an estimated 17 million people worldwide. CFS is not simply feeling tired, it’s a debilitating illness characterised by profound fatigue that does not improve with rest and worsens with increased physical or mental activity.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

CFS is a persistent and unexplained fatigue that lasts for at least six months. While the exact cause of CFS is not known, some research suggests it might involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and physiological factors. Unfortunately, there’s no single test to confirm a diagnosis of CFS. A variety of tests could be required to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms to CFS.

CFS symptoms

While the hallmark of CFS is an overwhelming fatigue, the condition can have a wide range of symptoms, varying in intensity and severity from person to person. Some of the primary symptoms associated with CFS include:

  • Extreme exhaustion: The exhaustion experienced by CFS sufferers is not relieved by sleep or rest. It significantly impairs daily functioning and cannot be caused by any other condition if it is to be diagnosed as CFS.
  • Cognitive impairment: Commonly referred to as "brain fog”, this includes problems with memory, concentration, and the processing of information. It can be particularly frustrating and affects many aspects of daily life.
  • Chronic pain: Many people who suffer from CFS experience muscle and joint pain without redness or swelling. Other painful areas can include the head and throat.

Possible causes of CFS

  • viral infections, such as glandular fever
  • bacterial infections, such as pneumonia
  • immune system problems
  • hormone imbalances
  • genetics

Living with CFS

Living with CFS can be challenging, as the unpredictability of symptoms and the stigma that CFS may carry can affect a person’s ability to work, engage in social activities, or be fully present in relationships.

CFS is a serious, long-term illness that impacts many aspects of a person’s life. For those suffering from CFS, obtaining a diagnosis can be the first step toward understanding their symptoms, adjusting their lifestyle, and finding a supportive community that understands their condition.



How many people have ME/CFS? ME Research UK. 2011. Available here.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Mayo Clinic. Accessed 2024. Available here.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). NHS. Accessed 2024. Available here.

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