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