Headaches and tiredness could signal a hidden chronic illness

It is quite common to experience headaches or tiredness in your day to day life.

Easily impacted by the amount of sleep you get, the weather, your stress levels and other circumstances, it can be easy to brush them aside as a non-issue.

However, they could be a sign of a little-known but “debilitating” condition.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a chronic neurological disease that affects many of the body’s systems.

Mainly targeting the nervous and immune systems it can cause a raft of “fluctuating” symptoms from muscle pain to memory problems.

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According to Action for ME, it impacts around 250,000 people in the UK and more than 17 million globally.

However, symptoms will differ depending on the person.

The charity explains: “People with ME experience debilitating pain, fatigue and a range of other symptoms associated with post-exertional malaise, the body and brain’s inability to recover after expending even small amounts of energy.

“Not everyone will experience the same symptoms so it’s important not to compare someone who has ME to another person who has the illness.

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“People with ME can vary enormously in their experience of the illness, and also how long their symptoms last.

“Some make good progress and may recover, while others can remain ill for a number of years and may not get better.

“Some people find that they don’t go back completely to the way they felt before they became ill, but they do recover sufficiently to lead happy and fulfilling lives. This is similar to many other chronic illnesses.”

The NHS uses the name ME interchangeably with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

However, Action for ME believes they should be differentiated.

Symptoms of ME

The NHS lists more common symptoms of ME as:

  • Feeling extremely tired all the time – you may find it very hard to do daily activities
  • Still feeling tired after resting or sleeping
  • Taking a long time to recover after physical activity
  • Problems sleeping, such as waking up often during the night
  • Problems with thinking, memory and concentration.

And for some it can also result in:

  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Headaches
  • A sore throat
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling dizzy or sick
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations).

“The severity of symptoms can vary from day to day, or even within a day,” the health body says.

If you experience symptoms you should speak to your GP.

Treatments are available to tackle the symptoms.

Causes of ME

It’s not exactly known what causes ME, or CFS, however there are a number of theories behind it.

Suggested causes or triggers for ME/CFS include:

  • Viral infections, such as glandular fever
  • Bacterial infections, such as pneumonia
  • Problems with the immune system
  • A hormone imbalance
  • Your genes – ME/CFS seems to be more common in some families.

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