What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly known as M.E., is an ongoing condition, resulting from a severe viral or other illness. Another name for this condition is post viral syndrome. It is not in itself infectious but occurs when the victim is left with a damaged immune system, causing a range of debilitating symptoms. They include, extreme tiredness, aching, muscle weakness and impairment of some mental processes.

Symptoms, such as these, are not uncommon after viral infections, but rarely persist for more than a few weeks and then do not recur. However, when they do persist, or regularly recur for an abnormal period of time, perhaps for more than a year, then an ongoing illness emerges which is totally different to the original illness. In addition to a range of chronic and persistent symptoms, the victim also develops a masked intolerance to many foods, chemicals and inhalants. Life becomes very unpleasant indeed.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis has been known by many other names over the past thirty years and has been reported in the British Medical Journal under such names as Icelandic Disease, Royal Free Disease and Akuryeri Disease, prior to its present name being commonly adopted. In America the same illness is known as neuromyasthenia. Like all illnesses involving multiple masked allergies, the most important factor in finding effective treatment is an awareness, by doctor and patient, that such illnesses exist, and are responsible for a wide range of chronic symptoms.

Evidently the illness has a history of localized epidemicity with outbreaks being reported in institutional situations such as large hospitals, army barracks and schools, and thought to be due to an unidentified virus which remains in the body and causes continuing symptoms. The majority of sufferers however, appear to have been left with the condition as a result of some other serious illness which has had a damaging effect on the immune system.

In recent years, myalgic encephalomyelitis has become such an increasing problem in Western countries that M.E. Societies have been formed to help people cope with the illness, and to encourage medical research into its causes.

M.E. has not been reported in Third World countries. This probably indicates that the breakdown in our natural resistance to disease, caused by the chemicals in our over-refined Western diet, is making us very susceptible to illness. Particularly to illnesses which leave the victim with a damaged immune system. Often, the result is a multiple allergy condition with a wide range of symptoms, not commonly attributable to allergies. Due to the masked nature of the symptoms, the sufferer is left puzzled and perplexed.

According to Dr R. Loblay, who is senior lecturer in immunology at Sydney University: ‘The term itself means an inflammatory condition of the brain and spinal cord and in retrospect is an unsatisfactory name for the condition. It was coined not long after the 1955 epidemic at the Royal Free Hospital in London, at a time when poliomyelitis was at its peak, and the outbreak was at first feared to be polio.’ Dr Loblay goes on to say that extensive tests have never shown evidence of an inflammatory process in the brain or spinal cord. Invariably the blood count and ESR (indication of . inflammation) are normal, which indicates that some other type of pathological process is going on which is non-inflammatory.