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: Depression

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?

Diagnosis: Buspirone Challenge Test

ME Essential Summer 2021

I didn’t think there was a blood test for ME. However, my doctor wants to arrange for me to have what is called a buspirone challenge test. If this test can be used to confirm a diagnosis of ME, why isn’t it being used more widely?

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?

Mental Health: Depression

ME Essential Spring 2018

Like many other people with ME/CFS, I often feel fed up and frustrated by all the restrictions this illness imposes on my life. But I don’t feel depressed. I now have a new bright GP who thinks I am depressed and he wants me to try a course of antidepressants – to see if they make me feel happier! I know I would feel happier if I just felt well again. But I’m not convinced that I need antidepressants to do so!

Treatment: Drugs and Weight Gain

ME Essential Spring 2018

Although taking a low dose amitriptyline has been very useful in reducing some of my pain and helping to correct my very erratic sleep pattern (frequent wakening during the night) I’ve put on a considerable amount of weight since taking this drug. My GP says that weight gain is a well recognised side-effect with this type of drug and that it can also occur with other drugs that are used for pain relief. I know from talking to other people with ME that weight gain can be a major problem with some drug treatments for ME. But why is this so? And are there any solutions?

Mental Health: Low Mood

ME Essential Autumn 2017

I’m really worried about my husband and his mental health. He has had moderate ME/CFS for several years and is no longer able to work or socialise. Like many people I know with ME/CFS, he felt fed up and frustrated with all the restrictions that ME/CFS has placed on his life. However, in my view, he has now become depressed - his mood is flat, he says he feels worthless and he no longer takes any care about his appearance. He sometimes cries and has even talked about ‘ending it all’. He won’t accept that he is depressed and won’t see his doctor - who is actually very good. What can I do?

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.
  • Join the ME Association as a member and you'll receive the highly-rated ME Essential magazine, and you can ask questions of the charity’s expert advisers including Dr Shepherd.
  • Contact us via the ME Connect Telephone Helpline (open 365 days a year) and speak to one of the national team of fully-trained volunteers who waiting to provide information and support. 
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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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