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Liam Butler interviews Dr Rosamund Vallings

Liam Butler interviews Dr Rosamund Vallings author of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME

02 September 2014

Liam Butler

Dr Rosamund Vallings MNZM, MB BS has been working hard for many years to help lift the stigma surrounding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME).

Dr Vallings explains: ‘It is not known what causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME, but it is suspected that those afflicted have a genetic predisposition triggered by a viral infection. Mental and physical stress are also factors. But without a definite known cause and the absence of visible symptoms, sufferers say they often feel stigmatised by the public, who do not believe they are genuinely ill.'

Question One

Dr Vallings you explain that 'with four people per thousand suffering from CFS/ME, the average GP will have two or three patients presenting with this illness over a number of years.' With the complexity associated with diagnosis and the various complex manifestations of this chronic condition do you think that many older people are at risk of not being diagnosed?

Yes I do think making a CFS/ME diagnosis is hard anyway, and even harder in older people who often do have a multiplicity of other health conditions, which can confuse the issue. So yes it's probable that a lot of older people may not get appropriately diagnosed with CFS/ME.

Question Two

What are the advantages of an older person being accurately diagnosed with CFS/ME?

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Correct diagnosis in any person with any illness ensures better management strategies being put in place. This applies to CFS/ME, as there are many approaches to suitable treatments that can be applied. Also the person will be properly monitored and a watch can be kept for development of other health conditions.

Question Three

Dr Vallings you encourage older people 'avoid making hasty decisions after a significant loss' and to 'never be afraid to ask for help'.

What strategies have you seen older people use to increase their resilience and capacity to cope?

Most older people do cope well after a loss - be it of a significant person in their life or their health, if they have given thought to these eventualities and possibilities before they actually happen - e.g. planning for widowhood, or health problems that may eventuate, such as not being able to drive or get upstairs. Those who live in denial that nothing will ever go wrong, will inevitably find coping suddenly without forethought very hard.

Question Four

You explain that Pharmacists 'will often advise you on over the counter product, checking carefully about the other medication you take, and recommending a visit to the Doctor if necessary'. You also state ' CFS/ME patients who have tried supplements in the hope of a cure have generally gained little help, despite the many pills and potions that many take.'

Do you think Pharmacists should only stock supplements that have been scientifically be proven to do what they say they do on the bottle?

And should the Pharmacist consult with the purchaser rather than the cosmetics/perfumery seller?

I think most pharmacists are very knowledgeable about over the counter products and their advice is usually sound and sensible, but I do agree that they should be aware of the importance of sound research to support the products they sell. And if in doubt, the patient should be referred back to the GP to check if the product is suitable for their particular condition. I think the greater problems can arise with people getting advice from Health Food shops about potentially beneficial products where there has been no scientific evidence in support. People with CFS/ME are particularly vulnerable as they are desperate, and there is often a "hard sell" approach sometimes even promising "cure". Patients are often led to believe that if something is "natural/herbal" it must surely be better, but this idea is not necessarily valid - e.g. nicotine and heroin can both be categorised as "natural/herbal".

Question Five

You explain that exercise, rest and good nutrition are important in managing CFS. What role does support from other people play in managing this chronic illness? Those who have significant supportive people in their lives do better at managing the illness, and there is likely to be a more positive outcome. Those who are very alone or feel unsupported by family, friends, employers or medical personnel do less well.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

by Dr Rosamund Vallings, MNZM, MB BS
Pages: 352 RRP NZ$40

Often known as ‘ME', Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat, yet its effects are profound, and often prolonged and debilitating.

Dr Rosamund Vallings has been helping those with this condition for more than 40 years. Drawing on the latest international diagnostic guidelines, she describes the process for accurate diagnosis, and the difficulties entailed. She clearly explains all aspects of the illness, and how it affects the body's many systems and functions. In separate sections she provides useful strategies for dealing with specific symptoms, as well as positive suggestions on how to cope with the disorder on a daily basis and make the necessary lifestyle changes.

This easy-to-follow resource provides a unique and timely overview of an elusive disease, written with the practical understanding of a highly experienced and internationally respected expert. It is essential reading for anyone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, and for friends and family members who might struggle to understand the condition. It is also a useful guide for health professionals diagnosing and treating the illness.


This is simply the best book available on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. Dr Vallings informs and educates readers on every aspect of this often misunderstood illness. Everyone who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME should read this book - it will help them cope, and will improve their life. Dr Ken Jolly, Medical Advisor, ANZMES

Never before have I had the pleasure of reading a book which has so successfully tackled a serious and controversial medical subject with such clarity of expression. Dr Vallings has produced a masterful work that reflects the essence of clear thinking. The comprehensiveness of her coverage - including health management, lifestyle ramifications and practical day-to-day advice - is extraordinary. It is the most user-friendly book I have ever read in the health care field. Professor Simon Molesworth, AO, QC, Honorary Chairman, ME/CFS Australia

With no clearly defined diagnostic test or management strategies, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME is a challenging condition for both the desperate patient and the busy doctor. Drawing on her many years' experience treating this illness, Dr Vallings here provides a wealth of information, with particular insights and sound medical advice. This is an outstanding, comprehensive and authoritative reference guide for the patient, carer and doctor. Christine Hunter, AM, Alison Hunter Memorial Foundation


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