Almost half of ME patients told 'it's all in their head' by docs who don't believe them

ME patients are put off going to A&E for fear their condition won't be taken seriously, new findings suggest.

It means the majority of these patients do not receive proper care, findings from Georgetown University Medical Centre said.

The study is the first of its kind to look into the treatment of CFS or ME sufferers in A&E departments.

It's findings highlight what the authors call a "profound lack of understanding of CFS by health care workers".

The study's senior investigator, allergist and immunologist James N Baraniuk, said that two-thirds of respondents reported that they'd either not go to an emergency department because they believed they wouldn't be taken seriously, or had previous unsatisfactory experiences.

Only 30 per cent said they received appropriate treatment in an emergency.

"The high proportion of patients who were basically told 'It is all in your head' by ED staff indicates that there is much misunderstanding and misgivings about the diagnosis of CFS.

"These patients should feel they are respected and that they can receive thorough care when they feel sick enough to go to an ED," he said.

Dr Baraniuk pointed out that more training is needed by emergency staff to better understand the disorder.

The 282 participants in the survey all had CFS, as diagnosed by a doctor.

Participants were predominantly women (87 per cent), educated (70 per cent had at least a college degree), and had a primary care physician (93 per cent).

The study found that only 59 per cent of CFS patients had gone to A&E and 42 per cent were told that their symptoms were all in their heads.

41 per cent didn't go to an emergency department when ill because they felt that nothing could be done or wouldn't be taken seriously.

Symptoms of ME

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or ME is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms.

The main symptom of CFS is feeling extremely tired and generally unwell.

In addition, people with CFSmay have other symptoms, including:

  • sleep problems
  • muscle or joint pain
  • headaches
  • a sore throat or sore glands that aren't swollen
  • problems thinking, remembering or concentrating
  • flu-like symptoms
  • feeling dizzy or sick
  • fast or irregular heartbeats

"An already-available CFS Symptom Severity Questionnaire can be used in the ED to assist with the diagnosis of CFS, and to differentiate exacerbations of CFS symptoms from medical emergencies such as heart attacks or infections," Dr Baraniuk explained.

The number one reason for going to the ED was orthostatic intolerance, which is when someone feels faint when standing or sitting upright.

"This is of importance because it provides a starting point for diagnosis and treatment by ED physicians," Dr Baraniuk said.

"This condition is something that can be readily addressed by ED caregivers.

"There is a real need for physician education that will improve their efficiency in identifying and treating CFS and in distinguishing CFS symptoms from other diseases in the exam room."

"We found that intolerance of exercise and intolerance to alcohol consumption were common to those diagnosed with CFS so this may help distinguish CFS from other conditions," says study co-author Christian Timbol who worked with Dr Baraniuk as a medical student before becoming an emergency medicine resident physician at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Around 250,000 people currently live with chronic fatigue in the UK, and around 17 million do worldwide.

Source: Read Full Article