Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Editorials

Myalgic encephalomyelitis: a unique medical challenge Action for ME

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:03023
  1. Samantha Radford, Action for ME

Samantha Radford looks at the controversy surrounding myalgic encephalomyelitis

A collective sigh of relief was heard across the United Kingdom in January 2002 when the chief medical officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, published his working group report describing myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) as a “real, debilitating, and distressing illness.”1 The estimated 240?000 people in the United Kingdom who have ME - also known as chronic fatigue syndrome - have been holding their breath, waiting for the moment the illness would come out of the cold.


The UK government estimate of 240?000 people being affected by the condition is based on a survey done in Chicago, which suggests 4.22 cases per 1000 population. Estimates vary greatly, although the condition seems to be found mostly in advanced industrialised countries. The real extent of the problem worldwide is unknown. Under-representation of developing countries could be explained by poor health care and monitoring, as most chronically ill people are cared for in the community setting without proper medical care. Further epidemiological research is needed to clarify exactly how many people are affected and to what extent, to form a basis for health service planning.

James king-holmes/spl

Tilt tests are used to reproduce symptoms of dizziness or loss of consciousness which can help with diagnosis and treatment …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription