Special Issue "ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected"

A special issue of Healthcare (ISSN 2227-9032). This special issue belongs to the section "Chronic Care".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Kenneth J. Friedman
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA (retired)
Interests: ME/CFS: diagnosis, pathophysiology; clinical care, medical student and healthcare provider education; relationship to other chronic diseases
Dr. Lucinda Bateman
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Bateman Horne Center, Salt Lake City, United States
Interests: Clinical collaboration with all scientists engaged in discovering biomarkers and improving both diagnosis and treatment of ME/CFS
Prof. Kenny Leo De Meirleir
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Professor emeritus Physiology, Pathophysiology and Medicine, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Interests: the severely ill ME/CFS patients; newly discovered infections in ME/CFS ; chronic zoonotic infections ; immune abnormalities in ME/CFS and their consequences ; the microbiome and intestinal inflammation in ME/CFS and chronic zoonotic infections.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

“ME/CFS—The Severely and Very Severely Affected” is a proposed themed Special Issue of Healthcare concerning housebound and bedbound Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) patients. Our intent is to redefine ME/CFS as the serious disease that it is. Up to this point in time, all literature and case definitions of ME/CFS have excluded severely and very severely affected patients, and diagnosis, patient management, and case definitions have been based on the ambulatory ME/CFS patient. Although never formally studied, it is estimated that twenty-five percent of ME/CFS patients are either severely or very severely affected. What other disease’s diagnosis, patient care, and case definition exclude the most severely ill twenty-five percent?

We aim to document, describe, and promulgate what can and should be done for this hidden patient population. By focusing on the severely affected, it is our hope that the pathophysiological nature of the disease will be better accepted and understood, and effective methods of symptom reduction and patient improvement will be placed in the medical literature. Kenneth J. Friedman, Ph.D. is serving as Guest Editor of the issue, with Drs. Lucinda Bateman and Kenny DeMeirlier serving as co-guest editors. If you would like to consider submitting a manuscript or have questions concerning the submission of a manuscript, please contact the guest editors.

Dr. Kenneth Friedman
Dr. Lucinda Bateman
Prof. Kenny Leo De Meirleir
Guest Editors

Summary Video

"Severe & Very Severe ME / CFS", produced by Natalie Boulton.
https://www.dialogues-mecfs.co.uk/films/severeme/

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Healthcare is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • ME/CFS
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)
  • severely affected (housebound) patients
  • very severely affected (bedbound) patients

Published Papers (19 papers)

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Research

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Article
Experiences of Living with Severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Healthcare 2021, 9(2), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9020168 - 05 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1047
Abstract
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a rare disease with no known etiology. It affects 0.4% of the population, 25% of which experience the severe and very severe categories; these are defined as being wheelchair-, house-, and bed-bound. Currently, the absence of biomarkers [...] Read more.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a rare disease with no known etiology. It affects 0.4% of the population, 25% of which experience the severe and very severe categories; these are defined as being wheelchair-, house-, and bed-bound. Currently, the absence of biomarkers necessitates a diagnosis by exclusion, which can create stigma around the illness. Very little research has been conducted with the partly defined severe and very severe categories of CFS/ME. This is in part because the significant health burdens experienced by these people create difficulties engaging in research and healthcare provision as it is currently delivered. This qualitative study explores the experiences of five individuals living with CFS/ME in its most severe form through semi-structured interviews. A six-phase themed analysis was performed using interview transcripts, which included identifying, analysing, and reporting patterns amongst the interviews. Inductive analysis was performed, coding the data without trying to fit it into a pre-existing framework or pre-conception, allowing the personal experiences of the five individuals to be expressed freely. Overarching themes of ‘Lived Experience’, ‘Challenges to daily life’, and ‘Management of the condition’ were identified. These themes highlight factors that place people at greater risk of experiencing the more severe presentation of CFS/ME. It is hoped that these insights will allow research and clinical communities to engage more effectively with the severely affected CFS/ME population. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Article
Homebound versus Bedridden Status among Those with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Healthcare 2021, 9(2), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9020106 - 20 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1697
Abstract
Persons living with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) vary widely in terms of the severity of their illness. It is estimated that of those living with ME/CFS in the United States, about 385,000 are homebound. There is a need to know more about [...] Read more.
Persons living with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) vary widely in terms of the severity of their illness. It is estimated that of those living with ME/CFS in the United States, about 385,000 are homebound. There is a need to know more about different degrees of being homebound within this severely affected group. The current study examined an international sample of 2138 study participants with ME/CFS, of whom 549 were severely affected (operationalized as ‘Homebound’). A subsample of 89 very severely affected participants (operationalized as ‘Homebound-bedridden’) was also examined. The findings showed a significant association between severely and very severely affected participants within the post-exertional malaise (PEM) symptom domain. The implications of these findings are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Article
Reliability and Validity of the Modified Korean Version of the Chalder Fatigue Scale (mKCFQ11)
Healthcare 2020, 8(4), 427; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8040427 - 24 Oct 2020
Viewed by 713
Abstract
Fatigue can accompany various diseases; however, fatigue itself is a key symptom for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Due to the absence of biological parameters for the diagnosis and severity of CFS, the assessment tool for the degree of fatigue is very [...] Read more.
Fatigue can accompany various diseases; however, fatigue itself is a key symptom for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Due to the absence of biological parameters for the diagnosis and severity of CFS, the assessment tool for the degree of fatigue is very important. This study aims to verify the reliability and validity of the modified Korean version of the Chalder Fatigue Scale (mKCFQ11). This study was performed using data from 97 participants (Male: 37, Female: 60) enrolled in a clinical trial for an intervention of CFS. The analyses of the coefficient between the mKCFQ11 score and the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) or the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) at two time points (baseline and 12 weeks) as well as their changed values were conducted. The mKCFQ11 showed strong reliability, as evidenced by the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of 0.967 for the whole item and two subclasses (0.963 for physical and 0.958 for mental fatigue) along with the suitable validity of the mKCFQ11 structure shown by the principal component analysis. The mKCFQ11 scores also strongly correlated (higher than 0.7) with the VAS, FSS and SF-36 on all data from baseline and 12 weeks and changed values. This study demonstrated the clinical usefulness of the mKCFQ11 instrument, particularly in assessing the severity of fatigue and the evaluation of treatments for patients suffering from CFS. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Communication
Cardiac Dimensions and Function are Not Altered among Females with the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Healthcare 2020, 8(4), 406; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8040406 - 16 Oct 2020
Viewed by 1595
Abstract
Background: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a debilitating condition associated with several negative health outcomes. A hallmark of ME/CFS is decreased exercise capacity and often profound exercise intolerance. The causes of ME/CSF and its related symptoms are unknown, but there are indications [...] Read more.
Background: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a debilitating condition associated with several negative health outcomes. A hallmark of ME/CFS is decreased exercise capacity and often profound exercise intolerance. The causes of ME/CSF and its related symptoms are unknown, but there are indications of a dysregulated metabolism with impaired glycolytic vs oxidative energy balance. In line with this, we recently demonstrated abnormal lactate accumulation among ME/CFS patients compared with healthy controls after exercise testing. Here we examined if cardiac dimensions and function were altered in ME/CFS, as this could lead to increased lactate production. Methods: We studied 16 female ME/CFS patients and 10 healthy controls with supine transthoracic echocardiography, and we assessed cardiac dimensions and function by conventional echocardiographic and Doppler analysis as well as novel tissue Doppler and strain variables. Results: A detailed analyses of key variables of cardiac dimensions and cardiac function revealed no significant differences between the two study groups. Conclusion: In this cohort of well-described ME/CFS patients, we found no significant differences in echocardiographic variables characterizing cardiac dimensions and function compared with healthy controls. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Article
Reductions in Cerebral Blood Flow Can Be Provoked by Sitting in Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients
Healthcare 2020, 8(4), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8040394 - 11 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 5660
Abstract
Introduction: In a large study with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients, we showed that 86% had symptoms of orthostatic intolerance in daily life and that 90% had an abnormal reduction in cerebral blood flow (CBF) during a standard tilt test. A standard [...] Read more.
Introduction: In a large study with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients, we showed that 86% had symptoms of orthostatic intolerance in daily life and that 90% had an abnormal reduction in cerebral blood flow (CBF) during a standard tilt test. A standard head-up tilt test might not be tolerated by the most severely affected bed-ridden ME/CFS patients. Sitting upright is a milder orthostatic stress. The present study examined whether a sitting test, measuring cerebral blood flow by extracranial Doppler, would be sufficient to provoke abnormal reductions in cerebral blood flow in severe ME/CFS patients. Methods and results: 100 severe ME/CFS patients were studied, (88 females) and were compared with 15 healthy controls (HC) (13 females). CBF was measured first while seated for at least one hour, followed by a CBF measurement in the supine position. Fibromyalgia was present in 37 patients. Demographic data as well as supine heart rate and blood pressures were not different between ME/CFS patients and HC. Heart rate and blood pressure did not change significantly between supine and sitting both in patients and HC. Supine CBF was not different between patients and HC. In contrast, absolute CBF during sitting was lower in patients compared to HC: 474 (96) mL/min in patients and 627 (89) mL/min in HC; p < 0.0001. As a result, percent CBF reduction while seated was −24.5 (9.4)% in severe ME/CFS patients and −0.4 (1.2)% in HC (p < 0.0001). In the ten patients who had no orthostatic intolerance complaints in daily life, the CBF reduction was −2.7 (2.1)%, which was not significantly different from HC (p = 0.58). The remaining 90 patients with orthostatic intolerance complaints had a −26.9 (6.2)% CBF reduction. No difference in CBF parameters was found in patients with and without fibromyalgia. Patients with a previous diagnosis of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) had a significantly larger CBF reduction compared with those without POTS: 28.8 (7.2)% vs. 22.3 (9.7)% (p = 0.0008). Conclusions: A sitting test in severe ME/CFS patients was sufficient to provoke a clinically and statistically significant mean CBF decline of 24.5%. Patients with a previous diagnosis of POTS had a larger CBF reduction while seated, compared to patients without POTS. The magnitude of these CBF reductions is similar to the results in less severely affected ME/CFS patients during head-up tilt, suggesting that a sitting test is adequate for the diagnosis of orthostatic intolerance in severely affected patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Article
Validation of the Severity of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by Other Measures than History: Activity Bracelet, Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing and a Validated Activity Questionnaire: SF-36
Healthcare 2020, 8(3), 273; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8030273 - 14 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3034
Abstract
Introduction: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a severe and disabling chronic disease. Grading patient’s symptom and disease severity for comparison and therapeutic decision-making is necessary. Clinical grading that depends on patient self-report is subject to inter-individual variability. Having more objective measures to [...] Read more.
Introduction: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a severe and disabling chronic disease. Grading patient’s symptom and disease severity for comparison and therapeutic decision-making is necessary. Clinical grading that depends on patient self-report is subject to inter-individual variability. Having more objective measures to grade and confirm clinical grading would be desirable. Therefore, the aim of this study was to validate the clinical severity grading that has been proposed by the authors of the ME International Consensus Criteria (ICC) using more standardized measures like questionnaires, and objective measures such as physical activity tracking and cardiopulmonary exercise testing. Methods and results: The clinical database of a subspecialty ME/CFS clinic was searched for patients who had completed the SF 36 questionnaire, worn a SensewearTM armband for five days, and undergone a cardiopulmonary exercise test. Only patients who completed all three investigations within 3 months from each other—to improve the likelihood of stable disease—were included in the analysis. Two-hundred-eighty-nine patients were analyzed: 121 were graded as mild, 98 as moderate and 70 as having severe disease. The mean (SD) physical activity subscale of the SF-36 was 70 (11) for mild, 43 (8) for moderate and 15 (10) for severe ME/CFS patients. The mean (SD) number of steps per day was 8235 (1004) for mild, 5195 (1231) for moderate and 2031 (824) for severe disease. The mean (SD) percent predicted oxygen consumption at the ventilatory threshold was 47 (11)% for mild, 38 (7)% for moderate and 30 (7)% for severe disease. The percent peak oxygen consumption was 90 (14)% for mild, 64 (8)% for moderate and 48 (9)% for severe disease. All comparisons were p < 0.0001. Conclusion: This study confirms the validity of the ICC severity grading. Grading assigned by clinicians on the basis of patient self-report created groups that differed significantly on measures of activity using the SF-36 physical function subscale and objective measures of steps per day and exercise capacity. There was variability in function within severity grading groups, so grading based on self-report can be strengthened by the use of these supplementary measures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Article
Two-Day Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing in Females with a Severe Grade of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Comparison with Patients with Mild and Moderate Disease
Healthcare 2020, 8(3), 192; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8030192 - 30 Jun 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3474
Abstract
Introduction: Effort intolerance along with a prolonged recovery from exercise and post-exertional exacerbation of symptoms are characteristic features of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). The gold standard to measure the degree of physical activity intolerance is cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET). Multiple studies have [...] Read more.
Introduction: Effort intolerance along with a prolonged recovery from exercise and post-exertional exacerbation of symptoms are characteristic features of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). The gold standard to measure the degree of physical activity intolerance is cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET). Multiple studies have shown that peak oxygen consumption is reduced in the majority of ME/CFS patients, and that a 2-day CPET protocol further discriminates between ME/CFS patients and sedentary controls. Limited information is present on ME/CFS patients with a severe form of the disease. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the effects of a 2-day CPET protocol in female ME/CFS patients with a severe grade of the disease to mildly and moderately affected ME/CFS patients. Methods and results: We studied 82 female patients who had undergone a 2-day CPET protocol. Measures of oxygen consumption (VO2), heart rate (HR) and workload both at peak exercise and at the ventilatory threshold (VT) were collected. ME/CFS disease severity was graded according to the International Consensus Criteria. Thirty-one patients were clinically graded as having mild disease, 31 with moderate and 20 with severe disease. Baseline characteristics did not differ between the 3 groups. Within each severity group, all analyzed CPET parameters (peak VO2, VO2 at VT, peak workload and the workload at VT) decreased significantly from day-1 to day-2 (p-Value between 0.003 and <0.0001). The magnitude of the change in CPET parameters from day-1 to day-2 was similar between mild, moderate, and severe groups, except for the difference in peak workload between mild and severe patients (p = 0.019). The peak workload decreases from day-1 to day-2 was largest in the severe ME/CFS group (−19 (11) %). Conclusion: This relatively large 2-day CPET protocol study confirms previous findings of the reduction of various exercise variables in ME/CFS patients on day-2 testing. This is the first study to demonstrate that disease severity negatively influences exercise capacity in female ME/CFS patients. Finally, this study shows that the deterioration in peak workload from day-1 to day-2 is largest in the severe ME/CFS patient group. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Article
Cerebral Blood Flow Is Reduced in Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients During Mild Orthostatic Stress Testing: An Exploratory Study at 20 Degrees of Head-Up Tilt Testing
Healthcare 2020, 8(2), 169; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8020169 - 13 Jun 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 4294
Abstract
Introduction: In a study of 429 adults with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), we demonstrated that 86% had symptoms of orthostatic intolerance in daily life. Using extracranial Doppler measurements of the internal carotid and vertebral arteries during a 30-min head-up tilt to 70 [...] Read more.
Introduction: In a study of 429 adults with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), we demonstrated that 86% had symptoms of orthostatic intolerance in daily life. Using extracranial Doppler measurements of the internal carotid and vertebral arteries during a 30-min head-up tilt to 70 degrees, 90% had an abnormal reduction in cerebral blood flow (CBF). A standard head-up tilt test of this duration might not be tolerated by the most severely affected bed-ridden ME/CFS patients. This study examined whether a shorter 15-min test at a lower 20 degree tilt angle would be sufficient to provoke reductions in cerebral blood flow in severe ME/CFS patients. Methods and results: Nineteen severe ME/CFS patients with orthostatic intolerance complaints in daily life were studied: 18 females. The mean (SD) age was 35(14) years, body surface area (BSA) was 1.8(0.2) m2 and BMI was 24.0(5.4) kg/m2. The median disease duration was 14 (IQR 5–18) years. Heart rate increased, and stroke volume index and end-tidal CO2 decreased significantly during the test (p ranging from <0.001 to <0.0001). The cardiac index decreased by 26(7)%: p < 0.0001. CBF decreased from 617(72) to 452(63) mL/min, a 27(5)% decline. All 19 severely affected ME/CFS patients met the criteria for an abnormal CBF reduction. Conclusions: Using a less demanding 20 degree tilt test for 15 min in severe ME/CFS patients resulted in a mean CBF decline of 27%. This is comparable to the mean 26% decline previously noted in less severely affected patients studied during a 30-min 70 degree head-up tilt. These observations have implications for the evaluation and treatment of severely affected individuals with ME/CFS. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Review

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Review
Identifying and Managing Suicidality in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Healthcare 2021, 9(6), 629; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9060629 - 25 May 2021
Viewed by 1604
Abstract
Adult patients affected by myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are at an increased risk of death by suicide. Based on the scientific literature and our clinical/research experiences, we identify risk and protective factors and provide a guide to assessing and managing suicidality in [...] Read more.
Adult patients affected by myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are at an increased risk of death by suicide. Based on the scientific literature and our clinical/research experiences, we identify risk and protective factors and provide a guide to assessing and managing suicidality in an outpatient medical setting. A clinical case is used to illustrate how information from this article can be applied. Characteristics of ME/CFS that make addressing suicidality challenging include absence of any disease-modifying treatments, severe functional limitations, and symptoms which limit therapies. Decades-long misattribution of ME/CFS to physical deconditioning or psychiatric disorders have resulted in undereducated healthcare professionals, public stigma, and unsupportive social interactions. Consequently, some patients may be reluctant to engage with mental health care. Outpatient medical professionals play a vital role in mitigating these effects. By combining evidence-based interventions aimed at all suicidal patients with those adapted to individual patients’ circumstances, suffering and suicidality can be alleviated in ME/CFS. Increased access to newer virtual or asynchronous modalities of psychiatric/psychological care, especially for severely ill patients, may be a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Review
The Impact of Severe ME/CFS on Student Learning and K–12 Educational Limitations
Healthcare 2021, 9(6), 627; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9060627 - 25 May 2021
Viewed by 671
Abstract
Children with ME/CFS who are severely ill are bedbound and homebound, and oftentimes also wheelchair-dependent. Very seriously affected children are often too sick for doctor’s office visits, let alone school attendance. The most recent data estimate that 2–5% of children may be severely [...] Read more.
Children with ME/CFS who are severely ill are bedbound and homebound, and oftentimes also wheelchair-dependent. Very seriously affected children are often too sick for doctor’s office visits, let alone school attendance. The most recent data estimate that 2–5% of children may be severely affected or bedridden. However, there is no recent research that confirms these numbers. The severely ill receive little help from their schools, and are socially isolated. This article outlines several suggestions for the type of education that students with ME/CFS should be receiving and develops a preliminary sketch of the web of resources and emergent techniques necessary to achieve these outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Review
Elements of Suffering in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Experience of Loss, Grief, Stigma, and Trauma in the Severely and Very Severely Affected
Healthcare 2021, 9(5), 553; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9050553 - 09 May 2021
Viewed by 1116
Abstract
People who are severely and very severely affected by Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) experience profound suffering. This suffering comes from the myriad of losses these patients experience, the grief that comes from these losses, the ongoing stigma that is often experienced as [...] Read more.
People who are severely and very severely affected by Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) experience profound suffering. This suffering comes from the myriad of losses these patients experience, the grief that comes from these losses, the ongoing stigma that is often experienced as a person with a poorly understood, controversial chronic illness, and the trauma that can result from how other people and the health care community respond to this illness. This review article examines the suffering of patients with ME/CFS through the lens of the Fennell Four-Phase Model of chronic illness. Using a systems approach, this phase framework illustrates the effects of suffering on the patient and can be utilized to help the clinician, patient, family, and caregivers understand and respond to the patient’s experiences. We highlight the constructs of severity, uncertainty, ambiguity, and chronicity and their role in the suffering endured by patients with ME/CFS. A composite case example is used to illustrate the lives of severely and very severely affected patients. Recommendations for health care providers treating patients with ME/CFS are given and underscore the importance of providers understanding the intense suffering that the severely and very severely affected patients experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Review
The Lonely, Isolating, and Alienating Implications of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Healthcare 2020, 8(4), 413; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8040413 - 20 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1194
Abstract
This article provides a narrative review on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) through a psychosocial lens and examines how this impairment affects its sufferers during adolescence and adulthood, as well as how it impacts family caregivers and healthcare professionals’ mental health. Since there [...] Read more.
This article provides a narrative review on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) through a psychosocial lens and examines how this impairment affects its sufferers during adolescence and adulthood, as well as how it impacts family caregivers and healthcare professionals’ mental health. Since there has been a lack of investigation in the literature, the primary psychosocial stressor that this review focuses on is loneliness. As such, and in an attempt to help establish a theoretical framework regarding how loneliness may impact ME/CFS, loneliness is comprehensively reviewed, and its relation to chronic illness is described. We conclude by discussing a variety of coping strategies that may be employed by ME/CFS individuals to address their loneliness. Future directions and ways with which the literature may investigate loneliness and ME/CFS are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Review
The Development of a Consistent Europe-Wide Approach to Investigating the Economic Impact of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS): A Report from the European Network on ME/CFS (EUROMENE)
Healthcare 2020, 8(2), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8020088 - 07 Apr 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2703
Abstract
We have developed a Europe-wide approach to investigating the economic impact of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), facilitating acquisition of information on the economic burden of ME/CFS, and international comparisons of economic costs between countries. The economic burden of ME/CFS in Europe appears [...] Read more.
We have developed a Europe-wide approach to investigating the economic impact of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), facilitating acquisition of information on the economic burden of ME/CFS, and international comparisons of economic costs between countries. The economic burden of ME/CFS in Europe appears large, with productivity losses most significant, giving scope for substantial savings through effective prevention and treatment. However, economic studies of ME/CFS, including cost-of-illness analyses and economic evaluations of interventions, are problematic due to different, arbitrary case definitions, and unwillingness of doctors to diagnose it. We therefore lack accurate incidence and prevalence data, with no obvious way to estimate costs incurred by undiagnosed patients. Other problems include, as for other conditions, difficulties estimating direct and indirect costs incurred by healthcare systems, patients and families, and heterogeneous healthcare systems and patterns of economic development across countries. We have made recommendations, including use of the Fukuda (CDC-1994) case definition and Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC), a pan-European common symptom checklist, and implementation of prevalence-based cost-of-illness studies in different countries using an agreed data list. We recommend using purchasing power parities (PPP) to facilitate international comparisons, and EuroQol-5D as a generic measure of health status and multi-attribute utility instrument to inform future economic evaluations in ME/CFS. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)

Other

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Systematic Review
Systematic Review of Sleep Characteristics in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Healthcare 2021, 9(5), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9050568 - 11 May 2021
Viewed by 838
Abstract
(1) Background—Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a multifaceted illness characterized by profound and persistent fatigue unrelieved by rest along with a range of other debilitating symptoms. Experiences of unrefreshing and disturbed sleep are frequently described by ME/CFS patients. This is the first [...] Read more.
(1) Background—Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a multifaceted illness characterized by profound and persistent fatigue unrelieved by rest along with a range of other debilitating symptoms. Experiences of unrefreshing and disturbed sleep are frequently described by ME/CFS patients. This is the first systematic review assessing sleep characteristics in ME/CFS. The aim of this review is to determine whether there are clinical characteristics of sleep in ME/CFS patients compared to healthy controls using objective measures such as polysomnography and multiple sleep latency testing. (2) Methods—the following databases—Pubmed, Embase, Medline (EBSCO host) and Web of Science, were systematically searched for journal articles published between January 1994 to 19 February 2021. Articles that referred to polysomnography or multiple sleep latency testing and ME/CFS patients were selected, and further refined through use of specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. Quality and bias were measured using the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist. (3) Results—twenty observational studies were included in this review. The studies investigated objective measures of sleep quality in ME/CFS. Subjective measures including perceived sleep quality and other quality of life factors were also described. (4) Conclusions—Many of the parameters measured including slow- wave sleep, apnea- hypopnea index, spectral activity and multiple sleep latency testing were inconsistent across the studies. The available research on sleep quality in ME/CFS was also limited by recruitment decisions, confounding factors, small sample sizes and non-replicated findings. Future well-designed studies are required to understand sleep quality in ME/CFS patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Extremely Severe ME/CFS—A Personal Account
Healthcare 2021, 9(5), 504; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9050504 - 27 Apr 2021
Viewed by 5289
Abstract
A personal account from an Extremely Severe Bedridden ME/CFS patient about the experience of living with extremely severe ME/CFS. Illness progression, medical history, description of various aspects of extremely severe ME/CFS and various essays on specific experiences are included. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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Case Report
Life-Threatening Malnutrition in Very Severe ME/CFS
Healthcare 2021, 9(4), 459; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9040459 - 14 Apr 2021
Viewed by 2064
Abstract
Very severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) can lead to problems with nutrition and hydration. The reasons can be an inability to swallow, severe gastrointestinal problems tolerating food or the patient being too debilitated to eat and drink. Some [...] Read more.
Very severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) can lead to problems with nutrition and hydration. The reasons can be an inability to swallow, severe gastrointestinal problems tolerating food or the patient being too debilitated to eat and drink. Some patients with very severe ME will require tube feeding, either enterally or parenterally. There can often be a significant delay in implementing this, due to professional opinion, allowing the patient to become severely malnourished. Healthcare professionals may fail to recognize that the problems are a direct consequence of very severe ME, preferring to postulate psychological theories rather than addressing the primary clinical need. We present five case reports in which delay in instigating tube feeding led to severe malnutrition of a life-threatening degree. This case study aims to alert healthcare professionals to these realities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Case Report
Three Cases of Severe ME/CFS in Adults
Healthcare 2021, 9(2), 215; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9020215 - 16 Feb 2021
Viewed by 2159
Abstract
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex, only partially understood multi-system disease whose onset and severity vary widely. Symptoms include overwhelming fatigue, post-exertional malaise, sleep disruptions, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, orthostatic intolerance, cognitive impairment, etc. ME/CFS is a physiological disease with an onset [...] Read more.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex, only partially understood multi-system disease whose onset and severity vary widely. Symptoms include overwhelming fatigue, post-exertional malaise, sleep disruptions, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, orthostatic intolerance, cognitive impairment, etc. ME/CFS is a physiological disease with an onset often triggered by a viral or bacterial infection, and sometimes by toxins. Some patients have a mild case and are able to function nearly on a par with healthy individuals, while others are moderately ill and still others are severely, or even, very severely ill. The cohort of moderately to very severely ill is often housebound or bedbound, has lost employment or career, and has engaged in a long, and often futile, search for treatment and relief. Here, we present three case studies, one each of a moderately ill, a severely ill, and a very severely ill person, to demonstrate the complexity of the disease, the suffering of these patients, and what health care providers can do to help. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Case Report
Severe ME in Children
Healthcare 2020, 8(3), 211; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8030211 - 14 Jul 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 4585
Abstract
A current problem regarding Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is the large proportion of doctors that are either not trained or refuse to recognize ME/CFS as a genuine clinical entity, and as a result do not diagnose it. An additional problem is that [...] Read more.
A current problem regarding Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is the large proportion of doctors that are either not trained or refuse to recognize ME/CFS as a genuine clinical entity, and as a result do not diagnose it. An additional problem is that most of the clinical and research studies currently available on ME are focused on patients who are ambulant and able to attend clinics and there is very limited data on patients who are very severe (housebound or bedbound), despite the fact that they constitute an estimated 25% of all ME/CFS cases. This author has personal experience of managing and advising on numerous cases of severe paediatric ME, and offers a series of case reports of individual cases as a means of illustrating various points regarding clinical presentation, together with general principles of appropriate management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
Perspective
Health Care Responsibility and Compassion-Visiting the Housebound Patient Severely Affected by ME/CFS
Healthcare 2020, 8(3), 197; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8030197 - 04 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4838
Abstract
Many people with severe Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) commonly receive no care from healthcare professionals, while some have become distanced from all statutory medical services. Paradoxically, it is often the most seriously ill and needy who are the most neglected by those [...] Read more.
Many people with severe Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) commonly receive no care from healthcare professionals, while some have become distanced from all statutory medical services. Paradoxically, it is often the most seriously ill and needy who are the most neglected by those responsible for their healthcare. Reasons for this include tensions around the complexity of making an accurate diagnosis in the absence of a biomarker, the bitter debate about the effectiveness of the few available treatments, and the very real stigma associated with the diagnosis. Illness severity often precludes attendance at healthcare facilities, and if an individual is well enough to be able to attend an appointment, the presentation will not be typical; by definition, patients who are severely affected are home-bound and often confined to bed. We argue that a holistic model, such as ‘‘Compassion in Practice’’, can help with planning appointments and caring for people severely affected by ME/CFS. We show how this can be used to frame meaningful interactions between the healthcare practitioners (HCPs) and the homebound patient. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ME/CFS – the Severely and Very Severely Affected)
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