ME/CFS is a complex and disabling chronic illness affecting an estimated 17 million people worldwide. Conservatively, an estimated 101,000 Australians have ME/CFS, though it could be as high as 240,000. An estimated twenty five percent of these people are housebound, and many are confined to bed – unable to care for the simplest of their own needs. ME/CFS is still poorly understood by science. Currently, there is no cure, nor any approved treatments. Whilst many people with ME/CFS may improve with time, recovery rates are very low.
ME/CFS is considered an invisible illness as, in the majority of cases, there are no outward signs of the illness. It is also invisible as those who are most unwell are largely not seen outside their homes, and are often unable to have visitors.
ME/CFS impacts on the entire body, including brain function, cardiac function, the immune system and the nervous system. As a result sufferers experience many challenging symptoms, such as:
- Debilitating pain and fatigue
- Inability to think clearly
- Sensitivity to the environment, including light, noise, odours and touch
- Dizziness that disrupts mobility and dropping blood pressure that limits sitting, standing and ordinary daily activities
- Impaired memory
- Muscle weakness, spasms and poor coordination
- Nausea and abnormal gut function
All of these symptoms, and many more, become worse with mental, physical or emotional exertion. This exacerbation can last days, weeks or even months.