MEDICAL MATTERS

  • Medical Matters features questions asked by Members of the ME Association on health-related topics.
  • Dr Charles Shepherd and the ME Association's other advisers answer these questions by sharing their expert knowledge.
  • Medical Matters is based on the popular ‘Ask the Doctor’ series in ME Essential magazine.
  • It is a free resource that supplements the detailed information contained in the full range of literature that can be found in the website shop.

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Questions in the Category: Anxiety

Symptom: Palpitations

ME Essential Winter 2021

Like many people with ME I have occasional palpitations. Does this mean that I might have some form of underlying heart disease? Or is this just another part of having ME? And are there any drug treatments that might be helpful?

Septicaemia (Sepsis)

ME Essential Autumn 2021

Could you say something about sepsis and ME? A friend of mine who has ME has been seriously ill in hospital with sepsis but is now back home again. The doctors say that she is going to need a prolonged period of recovery from the effects of sepsis. This has also caused a significant relapse of her ME. Are people with ME more at risk from developing sepsis if they just have a minor injury or infection? And is there anything we should be doing to reduce the risk of developing sepsis?

Symptom: Vivid Dreams

ME Essential Summer 2021

Are vivid dreams a recognised symptom of ME? Like most people with ME I have unrefreshing sleep and sometimes wake up in the night. But I’ve recently been waking in the middle of the night with very clear memories of rather bizarre vivid dreams. Fortunately, nothing frightening has happened so far!

New Symptoms

ME Essential Winter 2021

I know that in addition to all the well-known symptoms associated with ME/CFS there are a considerable number of other symptoms that can sometimes occur. But when should I go and see my doctor if I develop a new symptom? Or when an existing symptom isn’t quite the same as it used to be? In my case I’ve always had a problem with balance and I know you have described this as ‘walking on rubber’ - which is exactly how it feels at times! However, I’m now having what are best described as occasional dizzy spells where I feel very “off balance”. I also suspect that my hearing isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be. I’ve mentioned this problem to my new GP, who checked my blood pressure, looked inside my ears and said it was probably caused by ME/CFS - but come back if things don’t improve! I don’t want to be seen as a hypochondriac, turning up at the doctors every time I don’t feel well. But at the same time, I don’t want to find that something important, or treatable, is being missed.

Management: Swimming

ME Essential Autumn 2020

Like some people with ME/CFS I’ve made a significant degree of improvement over a number of years. I’m fairly stable, mobile, able go for longish walks, and manage to do some part-time work. A well-intentioned friend who goes wild water swimming has suggested that I ‘give it a try’. She claims it can have all kinds of health benefits, including “resetting body clocks that have gone wrong”. She even pointed me to some research about the benefits of cold water swimming for conditions such as arthritis. I’m very open-minded about trying anything that might work. But I’m concerned that this could actually make ME/CFS worse.

Addison's Disease

ME Essential Summer 2020

I was interested to see the item on Addison’s disease in the Winter issue of ME Essential as I have a close friend with this rare disease and it obviously has some interesting symptom overlaps with ME/CFS. So is there any evidence that adrenal gland failure, and steroid hormone production, could also be involved in ME/CFS? If so, would it be worth looking at steroids as a possible form of treatment for ME/CFS?

Treatment: 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)

ME Essential Winter 2019

An alternative health practitioner has recommended that I take a 5-HTP supplement for my muscle pain and headaches, but I’m very wary of upsetting my heart and nervous system - especially my heart rhythms which are all over the place at the moment. Is there any evidence that this supplement, which I had never even heard of, is both safe and effective for use in ME?

Mental Health: Anxiety and Panic Attacks

ME Essential Autumn 2018

I’ve always been a rather anxious person but this has become more noticeable since developing ME. I also have occasional panic attacks – which never happened before. Is this all part of having this illness? Or am I just being unlucky?

Dr Charles Shepherd

Dr Shepherd has been Trustee and Hon. Medical Adviser to the ME Association for more than 40 years. He is integral to the charity's activities and provides information and support based on his professional knowledge, personal experience as a doctor with ME/CFS, and the understanding gained from helping many thousands of people with the condition. He was a member of the comittee responsible for the 2021 NICE Clinical Guideline and is a recognised expert on ME/CFS in the UK. His knowledge extends to Post-Viral Fatigue Syndromes (PVFS), Myalgic Encephalopathy/Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) or Long Covid.

If you have questions about ME/CFS or Long Covid, you can: 

  • Review the free information in the What is ME/CFS? section of the website, and the free Covid-19 and Long Covid information in the website shop.
  • Review the largest range of literature covering all aspects of living with ME/CFS. Download detailed information about symptoms, diagnosis, management, co-mordities, employment, education, related health conditions, The 2021 NICE Clinical Guideline, welfare benefits etc.
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Medical Matters is based on the popular ‘Ask the Doctor‘ series featured in the highly-regarded member’s magazine, ME Essential, and in the healthcare professional magazine, ME Medical. Both are produced by the ME Association and published as hard-copy magazines every 3 months and sent to members and healthcare professionals by post to home or business addresses. 

If you are an HCP you can sign-up here to receive ME Medical magazine (people with ME/CFS can also nominate their HCP by completing the sign-up form). 

Please note: The answers comprising Medical Matters were accurate at the time of printing. A publication date accompanies all listed entries. We will endeavour to keep Medical Matters updated as information changes, but if you would like to comment, please email: contact@meassociation.org.uk

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

Medical Matters is for information purposes only. The answers provided by Dr Shepherd and the ME Association’s other expert advisers should not be construed as medical advice. We recommend that any information you deem relevant is discussed with your GP as soon as possible. It is important to obtain advice from a GP who is in charge of your clinical care, who knows you well, and who can consider other likely causes for symptoms. Seek personalised medical advice whenever a new symptom arises, or an existing symptom worsens. Don't assume that new or worsened symptoms are a result of having ME/CFS.

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