The Symptoms Of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis




From ME Support.




In the 1950s Britain had several outbreaks of a Polio-resembling illness, and in 1955 an outbreak occurred at the Royal Free Hospital, London. An account of this can be found in the British Medical Journal entitled An Outbreak of Encephalomyelitis in the Royal Free Hospital Group, London (published 19 October 1957). After the Royal Free Hospital outbreak, a disorder with similar symptoms was found among the general population and the epidemic form came to be considered the exception. Dr Melvin Ramsay of the hospital’s Infectious Diseases department coined the term Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (referring to the effects on the muscles, brain and nerves) recording three main clinical features to the condition:

  1. A unique form of muscle fatigue whereby, even after a minor degree of physical effort, three, four or five days, or even longer can elapse before full muscle power is restored. Tenderness in the muscle, along with spasms or twitching, also occurs quite frequently.
  2. Circulation impairment involving cold extremities (hands and feet), increased sensitivity to climatic change, and episodes of sweating (which can occasionally necessitate a complete change of clothes or bedding).
  3. Cerebral dysfunction involving impairment of memory and powers of concentration. Other typical symptoms include difficulties in completing a line of thought, mixing up words (for example, saying “hot” when the correct word is “cold”), sleep disturbances (including a complete reversal of normal sleep patterns) and emotional liability.


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