Key things to consider
People with M.E. retain an intact sense of what they would expect and want to do but can’t do it in the way they did pre-illness. This wanting and expecting to return to normal functioning is at odds with what, even in its mildest form, is a seriously limiting illness.
For people with M.E. who need advice and support around their employment needs, please visit our SEE M.E. page.
Patients and professionals have told us that the following information is key:
- People with M.E. have low stamina for activities. Do not assume that if a patient appears better (or worse) at a given moment that this indicates a change in their overall condition.
- Surveys by Action for M.E. and other M.E. charities have consistently shown that the majority of people with M.E. find that pacing (ie. managing physical, mental and emotional activity and rest) helps them to manage their illness.
- Generally, people with M.E. will need to space out their activities, including medical appointments, to avoid exacerbating their symptoms and may find that their capacity is generally greater at a specific time of day.
- Treatment approaches should be regularly reviewed, including home visits for those who are too severely affected to attend surgery.
- Patients with M.E. often require longer appointment slots, or a series of appointments focusing on complex specific symptoms.
- Encourage patients to record symptoms in a diary, which may help to overcome barriers to effective communication during their appointment.
- Do not assume that dizziness, palpitations, chest pains or breathlessness are symptoms of anxiety. These are likely to be symptoms of autonomic dysfunction in at least a sub-set of M.E. patients.
- People with M.E. often take a range of supplements. It is recommended to ask about these causing side-effects or interacting with prescribed medication.
- Patients should not be encouraged to undertake any form of vigorous exercise. Any attempt to increase activity should be cautious and gradual.
- For some this will be limited to gentle stretches. Others who are more mobile may be able to undertake very gentle yoga, pilates or short walks.
- Rest and relaxation are important aspects of managing M.E. Some patients may benefit from advice around taking full, lying-down rest breaks, breathing exercises or mindfulness practice.
- General advice for M.E. patients includes drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, eating regular, small and well-balanced meals, and keeping caffeine and alcohol intake to a minimum (many people with M.E. experience alcohol intolerance so will generally self-regulate).
- Driving some or all of the time may be hazardous for patients with a high degree of cognitive or visual (eg. focusing) impairment.
- Pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood are concerns for many women with M.E. and their partners.
- People with M.E. may be eligible for a number of benefits. Claimants are increasingly expected to obtain their own supporting medical evidence, which can make a crucial difference to the success of a claim or appeal.