Thousands of people in Sussex are affected by ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Siobhan Ryan speaks to an organisation that is dedicated to providing support for sufferers and raising awareness of the condition.

About 900 adults and children in the county are virtually house-bound because they suffer from ME.

The condition affects 4,500 people in Sussex and experts say the figure is rising every year.

The Sussex ME Society is a Brighton based charity which works to provide help and support to people having problems.

Services include help-lines, newsletters, meetings, a website and a selection of special interest groups such as social clubs, Young ME, yoga, Christian and gay groups.

It is also encouraging members to learn more about what they eat as a good diet can play an important part in helping people cope with the effects of the disease.

The society is very active with 600 members although it helps a much larger number than that every year through phone calls and sending out leaflets.

GPs in the area are also in regular contact to find more details about latest developments in the treatment of the disease.

The society is also helping a working party set up by the Government's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson to review the condition and draw up a set of guidelines for GPs and medical staff on how to treat it.

Colin Barton, who has had the condition for several years, helped set up the society more than ten years ago.

He said:"At that time there was little help and comfort around for people. "Doctors were unaware of the extent of the problem while people were becoming more and more ill and unable to help themselves.

"This condition is not some sort of overnight disease.It can last for years and years.

"It can and has ruined people's lives so it is vital that people have something they can turn to for help which is where we come in.

"There have been tremendous strides in the recognition of the condition over the last few years as more people become aware of it and the effect it has on patients.

"We get a large number of referrals from doctors who feel that conventional medicine simply does not have the capability to help their patients.

"A lot of people are turning to alternative medicine such as homeopathy or acupuncture to see if they can help.

"There is certainly a lot more open-mindedness about the condition these days and a willingness to try and understand it."

The organisation has medical professionals and doctors as advisers and constantly updates its website and newsletter so all information is as up to date as possible.

People generally contract ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy), following a viral infection or trauma.

Symptons include profound physical and mental fatigue, muscle pain, mood changes, sleep disturbance, alcohol intolerance, difficulty with concentration and short term memory along with gastric and eye-sight problems.

The symptons, which vary and fluctuate, can be made worse by over exertion but most patients gradually improve over time.

ME-type illnesses have appeared in medical literature since 1750 and both Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale are throught to have had the condition.

ME has recently been classed by the World Health Organisation as a neurological disorder and research is continuing into its cause and development.

For more details about the organisation call Mr Barton on 01273 682345.