Ramsay’s Disease – the efficacy of Evening Primrose Oil and the Exercise idol (pt2)

Ramsay’s Disease is authored by Dr Simpson who has done years of research and Nancy Blake who has ME.

(Ramsay’s Disease blog entry 1)

Dr. Simpson points out the various studies that show the efficacy of fairly high doses of Evening Primrose Oil in enhancing the fluidity of blood flow.  Fish oils had also had some success, he says.  There have been studies showing that high doses of EPO can assist women with premenstrual tension. It has also been shown to improve luteal phase defect probably because of it’s action on prostaglandin. I already knew about the latter studies and this is why EPO made it into the BNF a few years ago – don’t know if it’s still there. Simpson doesn’t mention luteal phase defect, but then he isn’t writing about fertility problems, he’s interested in blood flow and capillary size in people with ME.

He proposes that “people who develop ME have the anatomical feature of smaller-than-usual capillaries in those parts of the body which become dysfunctional and manifest symptoms…” which seems fair enough,and might go some way to explain why more women than men are dx with ME, (and that’s before you take the different hormone balances into consideration) and then he continues with “after exposure to an agent which initiates changes in the shape populations of red blood cells.” And that leaves us with the mighty question what agent?

I don’t remember being ill before I became ill (if you get me) I didn’t have the classic “flu that never went away”. I didn’t even have the equally common “virus that went away and came back and then never went away” either. I was fine. Then I couldn’t walk and was in terrible pain and other weirdness; but nothing obviously viral.

If Simpson is right and small capillaries are part of the problem then that makes me wonder how many of us were harbouring the problem until something (I suppose the “agent”) triggered it. I’ve always had what adults around me called “poor circulation”. It means I tended to have colder extremities. But that was it. Nothing like the Raynaud’s I now have or the POTs rash and blood pooling or the purple feet and knees, as adverts of my dysautonomia. That’s new. But if I always had circulation problems then that would tick a Simpson box about overly small capillaries.

All of this would lead to poor profusion and explain the muscle fatigue – moving from aerobic to anaerobic at the least provocation; raising lactic acid and of course leading to a crash (PEM/PENE)

Simpson does not claim that taking Evening Primrose Oil could or will cure ME. He’s aware of the complex and just plain nasty side of the disease, but EPO could help blood flow and this should lead to some alleviation of some symptoms.

The lack of acknowledgement of much of the research and complete lack of follow up is frustrating.

At the end there is a discussion of some of the deliberate hurdles and obfuscation that has been put in the way of a proper diagnostic criteria and treatment plan.

As the author notes, if those people who came forward to take part in the much discredited PACE trials were excluded if they suffered Post Exertional Malaise (PEM) sometimes called Post Exertional Neuro Exhaustion (PENE) were excluded from the study then not one participant actually had ME! (cf loc 5185 90% Kindle edition)

The book ends with a very good commentary by Nancy Blake whose professional background is in psychiatry. She points out that a tick box approach to diagnosis is not a good way for medics to decide what is happening or how to help a patient. She also, rightly, points out that labelling people with ME as having a psychiatric disorder without any history of precipitating factors is not going to be accurate.

Misdiagnosing people with ME as having a completely made up dx of Somatoform disorder is deeply unethical. Ms Blake doesn’t challenge the existence of Somatoform disorder in her criticism of it’s use to label people with ME, but frankly as there is no evidence the disorder exists at all, you have to question the motives of the doctor who uses it.

She goes on to note how research is heavily hampered by the downright silly mess of diagnostic criterias available some of which, such as the most ridiculous one, the Oxford Criteria do mention PEM but don’t  have it as required.  This means lots of non-ME are misdiagnosed with ME/cfs as well.

She writes:

Fighting against this illness in the way that medicine and convention expect us to will ensure that we lose not only the battle it also the war – in the short term, we will get worse. In the long term, we may end up among the 25% who are completely disabled.”

I have to agree. I did what I was told at the beginning of all this and now I am much sicker, and more disabled than I think I would have been had I listened to what my body was telling me. There are so many other patients who tell the same story.

Further reading

A story in the Telegraph about a woman who died from complications of  ME

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