What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), commonly referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a complex disorder characterized by unexplained and persistent fatigue. Generally, it is not the result of ongoing exertion and rest does not improve symptoms. The condition usually results in a substantial reduction of previous levels of occupational, educational, social or personal activities.
What are the Symptoms of ME/CFS?
Symptoms usually last longer than six months and can include memory loss, inability to concentrate, mild fever, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, unexplained muscle or joint pain, headaches, non-restorative sleep and depression.
What Medical Conditions are Associated with CFS?
Many viral infections, hypothyroidism, endocrine disorders, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, anemia, mononucleosis, sleep apnea and autoimmune diseases can present with fatigue. It is unclear whether these diseases alone, or an underlying predisposition, results in the chronic nature of CFS following the original trigger.
How Common is CFS?
Unexplained, persistent fatigue is quite common in the United States. Up to 33% of patients in primary care settings complain of fatigue and fatigue-related symptoms. Of those, roughly two- thirds will be diagnosed with a specific disease or condition causing fatigue; one-third will have unexplained chronic fatigue. In many cases fatigue may be triggered by an underlying medical condition, but the prolonged nature of ME/CFS make it a unique diagnosis. Unlike normal fatigue, the fatigue of ME/CFS does not improve with rest, and can limit a patient’s ability to complete normal activities. Testing for conditions that may have triggered ME/CFS is often the first step in improving symptoms and quality of life.
The ME/CFS Profile from BioReference
The ME/CFS Profile is a simple blood test that identifies certain diseases that may be the underlying cause symptoms. Antibodies, or markers, associated with conditions such as autoimmune diseases, thyroid disease, Lyme disease, viral infections and anemia are measured. In some cases, one of these tests will be positive, suggesting a known condition may have triggered your persistent fatigue. However, in some cases no underlying disease can be identified.
When to Get Tested
Most people with new-onset fatigue are usually advised to change their lifestyles, including diet, exercise habits, and stress levels, to see if such changes can improve symptoms. Should those fail, a visit to a primary care physician typically results in a trial of treatments to address sleep issue or mental health concerns. If symptoms persist, and a diagnosis cannot be made, patients may wish to discuss diagnostic testing using the BioReference ME/CFS Profile with their doctor.
There is no single test that can diagnose ME/CFS. Instead, your doctor may need to rule out other causes of persistent fatigue before providing a diagnosis of ME/CFS. Speak with your physician to confirm if testing is right for you.