Myalgic encephalopathy (ME) is a complex and controversial disorder characterized by chronic symptoms of fatigue that have no apparent cause and are not relived by rest. Although there is very little empirical research into the potential for cannabis to treat ME, countless sufferers report feeling subjective relief.
What is myalgic encephalopathy?
Myalgic encepalopathy (ME) has been known by various names in the decades since it was first described, including myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), chronic Epstein-Barr virus (due to the belief that the condition was caused by the Epstein-Barr virus), post-viral fatigue syndrome, and systemic exertion intolerance disease.
As well as feelings of intense, unrelenting physical and mental fatigue and postextertional (post-exercise) malaise, ME may also cause those affected to experience headaches, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, digestive disturbances, swollen lymph nodes, impaired memory and concentration, and depression. Symptoms vary in severity according to the individual, and in some cases can seriously detract from the patient’s quality of life.
Physiologically, ME is strongly associated with inflammation of the brain and spinal cord; this is reflected in the term “encephalomyelitis”, although this term is gradually being replaced by “encephalopathy” to reflect generalized dysfunction of the central nervous system. A 2014 study found that patients with ME/CFS exhibited markers of inflammation in certain brain regions that were 45-199% higher than in healthy controls.
What causes myalgic encephalopathy?
The underlying cause of ME is still unknown, and it is generally thought that a combination of genetic, environmental, infectious and psychological factors may be involved.
The possibility that viral infections play a role has not been discounted, although it appears that the previous belief that the Epstein-Barr virus (which is known to cause mononucleosis or glandular fever) was the underlying cause was in fact erroneous, as it is not present in all sufferers of the condition (now, the chronic fatigue experienced due to the virus is specifically termed Epstein-Barr chronic fatigue) . As well as this, chronic stress (lasting for six months or more) is believed to play a significant role.
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