May 12th is International ME/CFS Awareness Day. Unless you have or know someone with ME/CFS, you probably wouldn't know that. And even if you did know, you probably won't read about it in any newspaper, nor hear about it on any media outlet. Like many ME/CFS patients themselves, this day tends to go by unmentioned, unnoticed, unheard.
So, in an effort to do my small part in raising awareness about this illness, here are just a few basic facts about ME/CFS:
1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a serious disease with a ridiculous name. CFS is also known as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E). It is often abbreviated ME/CFS.
2. ME/CFS is a complex, multi-systemic illness, affecting the immune, endocrine, cardiovascular, autonomic, and central nervous systems. It is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a neurological disease.
3. In order to be diagnosed with ME/CFS, you must present with: extreme, incapacitating exhaustion that is not alleviated by rest and reduces your activity level by at least 50%, as well as at least four of the following symptoms: post exertional malaise (a worsening of symptoms after even minor exertion) lasting more than 24 hours, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, low grade fevers, headaches, unrefreshing sleep, and memory loss or difficulty concentrating. These symptoms must be present for at least 6 months or longer. ME/CFS patients often also suffer from neurological problems, sensory overload, orthostatic intolerance, exercise intolerance, flu-like symptoms, shortness of breath, chest pain, and other symptoms.
4. According to the CDC, ME/CFS can be as or more debilitating than multiple sclerosis, lupus, COPD, heart failure, late stage AIDS, and end stage renal failure.
Dr. Nancy Klimas, an immunologist who splits her time between ME/CFS and HIV/AIDS patients, was recently quoted in The New York Times as saying:
"I can tell you, if I had to choose between the two illnesses (in 2009) I would rather have H.I.V."
5. ME/CFS afflicts both genders of all classes and all ages, including young children. Approximately 1 to 4 million Americans have ME/CFS. That's more than breast cancer, AIDS, or lung cancer combined.
Additionally, at least 17 million people suffer from ME/CFS world-wide.
6. It has been estimated that about 25% of ME/CFS patients are fully disabled, and many of those are homebound or completely bedridden.
7. ME/CFS often has a viral and sudden onset. Many viruses have been linked to CFS, including EBV (mononucleosis), CMV and HHV-6. Bacterial infections have also been associated with ME/CFS, including mycoplasma and Lyme Disease.
8. In October of 2009, Science Magazine published a study showing a link between a newly discovered human retrovirus (XMRV) and ME/CFS. This study was conducted by the Whittemore Peterson Institute in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic.
9. There are over 5,000 published studies showing a clear, biophysical pathogenesis in ME/CFS. Some abnormalities found in ME/CFS include: low natural killer cell count and activity, activated T cells, increased levels of cytokines, abnormalities in brain metabolism, mitochondrial damage, orthostatic intolerance, low blood volume, problems with oxidative phosphorylation, blocks in methylation cycles, changes in genetic expressions, glutathione depletion, oxygen toxicity/cellular hypoxia, diastolic cardiomyopathies, left ventricular dysfunction in the heart, and delayed VO2 max (maximal oxygen utilization) following exercise or exertion.
10. ME/CFS is thought to cost the U.S. economy about $25 billion a year, and perhaps more. The average cost per family of a ME/CFS patient is approximately $25,000 per year (including unemployment).
11. Despite its prevalence and seriousness, ME/CFS is still one of the least funded of all illnesses in the United States (in the bottom 12). More money is spent each year studying hay fever than ME/CFS.
12. Currently, there are no FDA approved treatments for ME/CFS, and there is no known cure.
Phoenix Rising: About ME/CFS
Whittemore Peterson Institute
The CFIDS Association of America
Some things you can do to help:
1. Help spread the word that ME/CFS is a serious and multi-systemic disease. If someone has false misconceptions about the illness, speak up and correct them.
2. Don't call CFS "chronic fatigue." CFS is a complex illness affecting many different organ systems; it is not a single symptom. Referring to it merely as "chronic fatigue" (rather than CFS or ME/CFS) is not only incorrect, it can actually feel disrespectful.
3. If you know someone with CFS, let them know you care. Drop them a line from time to time (without expecting a response). Listen to what they have to say and ask if there's anything you can do to help.
4. Become educated and involved. Read up on ME/CFS from legitimate sources and stay informed. Join advocacy groups such as the ones linked on this page, sign petitions, watch online webinars, and/or write to Congress to request more funding and awareness.
5. Take a moment to ask the Secretary of Health to implement the recommendations of the CFS Advisory Committee. The CFIDS Association makes this easy for you. The letter is already written, so that all you have to do is add your name and address. There is room for further comment should you choose to add any additional thoughts.
6. Wear a blue ribbon to show your support. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, consider putting one of these Twibbons on your profile picture to raise awareness.
ME/CFS 12th May Awareness Twibbon
Pandora Neuro-endocrine-immune centre Twibbon
XMRV & ME/CFS Twibbon
7. As noted above, ME/CFS is one of the least funded of all illnesses. If you can afford to, make a donation to one of the many ME/CFS charities, such as the
Whittemore Peterson Institute,
The CFIDS Association of America, or
If you are unable to donate, you can instead write to your local senators or government representatives and ask that they allocate more funds toward ME/CFS research.
8. Below are a few informational videos about ME/CFS as well as XMRV. Take a look, listen and pass them on.
For more information on ME/CFS please visit any of the organizations linked on this post, or in the 'Useful Links for ME Support & Info' section on the sidebar.
was re-posted with permission, with many thanks to her!
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