Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, commonly referred to as ME/CFS, is a disabling disease characterized by a significant impairment in daily function, exertional intolerance, sleep abnormalities, orthostatic intolerance, cognitive dysfunction, and profound fatigue. Significant functional limitations in physical exertion, cognitive processing, memory, attention, sensory processing, and social interaction are common. The hallmark and seemingly pathognomonic symptom is “post-exertional malaise” (PEM), in which baseline symptoms are exacerbated by physical or cognitive exertion, often for a prolonged period after the exertion has been completed. An estimated 1 to 2.5 million Americans have ME/CFS and as many as 75% are unable to work or attend school. The estimated annual cost to the American economy is $18-24B in direct medical costs and lost productivity.
Yet, ME/CFS remains highly misunderstood and all too often stigmatized by the medical community, leaving those suffering from this illness frequently feeling abandoned or ignored by traditional medicine. As many as 90% of ME/CFS patients do not receive a diagnosis within the first five years of the onset of their illness.
Fortunately, recent progress within both translational and clinical research has led to advances in our understanding of the underpinnings of the pathophysiology of the illness as well as in clinical treatment strategies that can improve the lives of patients afflicted with this illness.