Neurological effects of M.E.

It is a common misconception that fatigue is a defining feature of M.E. This is not the case: fatigue is a feature of several chronic illnesses, and while it is probably more severe in M.E. than in most, countless symptoms combine and conspire to rob most sufferers of anything approaching a normal life for the duration of the illness. As M.E. is an illness of the central nervous system, some of the worst and most immediately obvious – alongside post-exertional malaise – are the neurological symptoms. Here are some links which may help to explain how these present.

The Differential Diagnosis of CFS and MS

In a review of 366 patients referred to me who had been diagnosed with MS by a board-certified neurologist, only 236 patients (65%) had been correctly diagnosed. An astounding 28 (22%) actually had CFS.

More on the similaries and differences between MS and ME (see Table 1 and Table 3)

50% of MS patients are cognitively impaired. The severity of impairment can range from clinically undetectable to global and severe.  

100% of M.E. patients are significantly cognitively impaired. Even most moderately affected patients are severely cognitively impaired and in the most severely affected patients the deficits can be profound. For a significant number of M.E. patients this is their most severe disability. 

Some MS patients may difficulty speaking. Some M.E. patients have difficulty speaking and also an equal difficulty listening to the speech of others or even tolerating having someone quietly keep them company. A few minutes with company or listening to speech can cause severe and pronged relapse and extreme suffering in M.E.

The Canadian Clinical Case Defintion for ME/CFS (seen by many as the desired criteria for diagnosis of ME):

NEUROLOGICAL/COGNITIVE MANIFESTATIONS:  Two or more of the following difficulties should be present: confusion, impairment of concentration and short-term memory consolidation, difficulty with information processing, categorizing, and word retrieval, intermittent dyslexia, perceptual/sensory disturbances, disorientation, and ataxia. There may be overload phenomena: informational, cognitive, and sensory overload — e.g., photophobia and hypersensitivity to noise — and/or emotional overload which may lead to relapses and/or anxiety.

There is detail on each specific neurological difficulty on the 30-page document at the link above.

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