Q& A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - HEALTH MATTERS -

CMy 40-year-old sis­ter has a di­ag­no­sis of ME, or chronic fa­tigue. I will ad­mit that none of us have been very sup­port­ive in the past as we didn’t fully un­der­stand the con­di­tion and my sis­ter, as a

re­sult, is very re­luc­tant to com­mu­ni­cate with us and keep us up­dated on her con­di­tion. I un­der­stand that there are a lot of con­flict­ing views among the med­i­cal com­mu­nity on the con­di­tion. Could you ex­plain what the con­di­tion is? Also, have you any ad­vice on how we can sup­port our sis­ter? hronic fa­tigue or ME (myal­gic en­cephalopa­thy) is an ill­ness that is recog­nised on symp­toms alone. There is a broad range of symp­toms that vary from per­son to per­son. No iden­ti­fy­ing cause is known and there is no test avail­able to di­ag­nose it. The course and du­ra­tion of the con­di­tion is also very vari­able. Due to th­ese fac­tors, the con­di­tion can be dif­fi­cult to recog­nise and di­ag­nose and it can also be hard for pa­tients to ex­plain, and for friends and rel­a­tives to un­der­stand.

Core symp­toms in­clude fa­tigue that is per­sis­tent or re­cur­rent and started at a spe­cific time. This fa­tigue re­sults in a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in ac­tiv­ity and may get worse af­ter pe­ri­ods of ex­er­tion. One or more of the fol­low­ing symp­toms should also be present: sleep prob­lems, mus­cle or joint pain, headaches, ten­der lymph glands, a sore throat, cog­ni­tive changes (‘men­tal fog’), flu-like ill­ness, nau­sea and dizzi­ness.

There are many ill­nesses that can have sim­i­lar symp­toms, so typ­i­cally ME can take a while to di­ag­nose. Those af­flicted may end up hav­ing ex­ten­sive blood tests, scans and phys­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions in or­der to rule out other sig­nif­i­cant ill­ness. In or­der for ME to be di­ag­nosed, symp­toms must be present for more than four months in adults or three in chil­dren.

There is no treat­ment or cure for ME, but it is im­por­tant to note that the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple im­prove over time. A healthy life­style can re­ally help. It is im­por­tant to eat well and nour­ish the body. Eat­ing reg­u­larly through­out the day is best for en­ergy lev­els. Good sleep hy­giene and sleep man­age­ment can help. Make sure to have a wind down time, and a com­fort­able and re­lax­ing sleep­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

Rest pe­ri­ods dur­ing the day may be im­por­tant, though th­ese should be short last­ing no longer than 30 min­utes at a time. Th­ese rest pe­ri­ods could also be used to in­cor­po­rate rest or breath­ing

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