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: Primary Care

The 2021 NICE Guideline ME/CFS: Primary Care

ME Essential Summer 2022

I asked my GP if she was aware of the new NICE guideline on ME/CFS and whether she had read it. The answer was a very firm no and she explained that all doctors are suffering from information overload. So they can’t keep up-to-date with all the new NICE guidelines that appear. Is there any way in which we could actually get our doctors to read this important new information?

Vaccines: Shingles

ME Essential Winter 2021

As I’m 70 I’ve been offered the shingles vaccine. I have had ME since 2016, consider myself to be severe, and already suffer from nerve pain. So I do not want to make things worse. But I’m also aware of people with ME who have had a significant exacerbation of symptoms following a vaccination. So should I have this vaccine?

Symptoms: Joint Pain and Irritable Bowel

ME Essential Winter 2021

I know that in addition to all the classic diagnostic symptoms of ME there are a considerable number of other symptoms that can sometimes occur. But should we always go and see our GP every time a new symptom appears? Or when an existing symptom changes character or gets significantly worse? In my case, after several years of having ME, I’ve now developed intermittent joint pains (without any swelling or redness) and bowel symptoms (mainly loose motions with occasional stomach cramps and bloating) that sound like irritable bowel syndrome. I haven’t yet mentioned these symptoms to my new GP - who tends to blame everything on ME! I don’t want to be seen as a hypochondriac, turning up at the doctors every time I don’t feel well. At the same time, I don’t want to find that a new and treatable medical condition is being missed

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?

The 2021 NICE Guideline ME/CFS: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

ME Essential Autumn 2021

I know that the recommendations in the new NICE guideline apply to England. But what is the situation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where GPs often lack the necessary skills to diagnose and manage people with ME and hospital-based referral services are either poor or non-existent.

Prevalance: Population Estimates

ME Essential Spring 2021

The MEA always uses a figure of around 250,000 when you refer to the number of people in the UK who have ME/CFS. But where does that figure come from? And how accurate is it?

Allergies: Hay Fever

ME Essential Autumn 2020

Is hay fever more common in people with ME? I’m in my midthirties and never had hay fever before being diagnosed with ME several years ago. Every summer and autumn I now have the full list of hay fever symptoms - runny nose, blocked nose and red itching eyes. This year it has been worse than ever and my chest has been wheezy as well. MY GP thinks it may have triggered mild asthma. And is it safe to use a steroid nasal spray for hay fever if you have ME?

Medical Records

ME Essential Spring 2020

I am currently in dispute with my GP - who is refusing to correct some inaccurate medical information that was written in my medical notes. The GP maintains that this reflects a difference of opinion over what was said at a previous consultation. However, I believe the information about what I am capable of doing, both physically and mentally, is inaccurate and could have an adverse effect when it comes to him providing information to the DWP on my benefit claim for personal independence payment. What can I do to get this corrected?

Menopause

ME Essential Spring 2020

I’m in my late forties and have had mild to moderate ME/CFS for several years. Over the past few months I’ve been feeling more tired than usual, my concentration has got worse, I often feel hot at night and I have vaginal dryness. Not surprisingly, my doctor has decided that I’m entering the menopause and has recommended HRT - which I’m reluctant to use as I don’t like taking drugs. I’ve also found that what used to be only occasional attacks of migraine have become a much more regular occurrence. Is this unusual? Or can the menopause have an adverse effect on both ME/CFS and migraine-type headaches?

Treatments: Prescribed Drugs and Informed Consent

ME Essential Winter 2020

In addition to ME/CFS I have developed both arthritis and osteoporosis and now require drug treatment for these two conditions. I was recently prescribed a new and fairly powerful drug that soon exacerbated a number of my ME/ CFS symptoms. However, I received no warning that this was something that could happen. As a result, the drug had to be stopped and changed to another one that I was able to tolerate. This upset might have been avoided if my doctor had also considered the potential side-effects a bit more carefully, and discussed them with me, before writing the prescription. Why doesn’t this happen?

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. 
  • Contact us via email or social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn

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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