Posted by: Brad | 2007/04/26

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.)

M.E./Yuppie Flu/PVFS - whatever you want to call it:

I was 'diagnosed' with Post-viral Fatigue Syndrome in 2001 (aged 27) after 6 months of seeing various doctors and specialists in Durban. I now work all over the country, and have noticed a growing 'trend' in GPs being very wary of those who say they have suffered from anything in the line of "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome". I remember after I was booked off by an Endocrine Specialist (who diagnosed the "M.E." in 2001), my local GP insinuated that the problem with me was 'psychological'. His questions also bordered on me being a 'hypochondriac". He obviously hadn't liked the letter sent to him by the Specialist (which I happened to browse in my file).

I have since moved to Johannesburg and have seen 3 different GP's over the last 3 years on 3 different occasions (hardly a hypochondriac). However, when they ask about my past and I refer to the M.E. 'incident' 6 years ago, I am met with hesitation. For example:- I was extremely ill in March this year, and saw the GP on a Saturday morning (not even a work day). When I mentioned the word "M.E.", she immediately started asking questions totally unrelated to the situation at hand. She then merely prescribed an anti-biotic and didn't book me off work - despite me having a massive fever, being totally exhausted, and having a severe bronchal infection (later diagnosed by my psychiatrist sister-in-law). I was booked off by my sister-in-law for almost 2 weeks and was nearly hospitalised. She was horrified when she saw me the day after I initially saw the GP, and I was also wrapped over the knuckles for not coming to her first. But that's besides the point. My sister-in-law then indicated that many GPs do not believe that M.E. exists and that they immediately look at the patient as either "seeking attention", "being a hypochondriac", "wanting to be booked off" or "experiencing mild stress or depression".

Do most GPs feel like this?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberDoc

Dear Brad
Unfortunately many doctors don't understand the physiology of ME yet - it is only lately been properly documented in medical journals and has only been recognized as a "disease" entity in the past few years. So "older" qualified doctors may think that it is just a kind of depression. Actually a very low % of people really have ME ( about 2% of all chronic tired patients) and a lot of times the chronic tiredness can be caused by all sorts of other physical diseases like infections, hormonal factors, some psychiatric diseases and sleep disturbances. Many patients are misdiagnosed as having ME because the doctor was too lazy or too uninformed or too pressed for time to do a proper examination and exlusion of all the relevant diseases. If an endocrine specialist diagnosed you, I suppose he did exclude all other possible causes. ME is a diagnosis of exclusion - in other words you will look for certain diseases and if you find nothing, but the patient has a certain set of symptoms, it could be ME. Some GP's will be more sympathetic than others - I think you should try and get a copy of your specialist report to keep with you and show the GP you visit.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Anonymous | 2013/03/14

Dear Brad, I know what you mean! For five years I was told by doctors and psychologists alike that ME at its root was psychological. I went to various doctors, but finally found a homeopath that for the first time treated me as a whole person not just looking at specific symptoms and treating those. I could not believe that no doctor had ever told me that I had a high heart rate (resting at 115 bpm, and jumping up to 225-245 during the day). Most doctors had told me that I had low blood pressure but the homeopath has seen me now every month for 6 months and it continues to be on average 75/40. The homeopath assured me that there is something physiologically wrong with me, rather than just psychological. You would think that specialists are well trained, but at the end of the day if it doesn't neatly fall into their specialisation, they are likely to miss it, and eventually start blaming you if they can't solve the problem. Hang in there if you aren't better!

Reply to Anonymous
Posted by: Brad | 2007/05/02

Thanks so much for your reply. I really appreciate this.



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