Tired of COVID-19 and ready to learn about another illness?
May 12th is International ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) Awareness Day. Although major strides have been made in the understanding of this illness since the 2015 Institute of Medicine report, many trivializing misconceptions persist, even among some healthcare professionals.
According to the IOM report, “Many health care providers are skeptical about the seriousness of ME/CFS, mistake it for a mental health condition, or consider it a figment of the patient’s imagination.” These misconceptions and dismissive attitudes are even more prevalent among the lay public. When an illness that upends ones life is dismissed in this way, it only makes a bad situation worse.
In fact, ME/CFS is a serious, often devastating disease that affects up to 2.5 million Americans and results in one quarter of patients being bed bound. According to the IOM report, “ME/CFS is a serious, chronic, complex, systemic disease that often can profoundly affect the lives of patients.” Although standard laboratory tests are often normal, “laboratories in many countries have documented underlying biological abnormalities involving many organ systems,” (JAMA, Aug. 13, 2019), including widespread neuroinflammation, immune system abnormalities, and impairment in the ability to perform physical and mental activity. According to the same JAMA review, “Cellular energy generation from all sources is impaired,” as is the ability to extract oxygen during exercise.
Stanford, Harvard, and The National Institutes of Health, among many others, are now involved in ME/CFS research, and excellent progress is being made. Now is the time to recognize the facts about this illness and finally treat it with the respect it deserves.