Dear doctor

I want my life back

Q I am 57 and caught glandular fever in April. My GP thought I was depressed at first. It has been a struggle, but I am beginning to feel stronger. However, I am still experiencing "dips" for three or four days at a time that leave me with little energy, a dull headache and raised glands. I have been trying to eat well and rest, but am demoralised about not being able to work and rejoin the human race. My husband left me, but I was recovering until I got ill. I don't drink and weigh under eight stone. How can I can speed recovery?

A Like many viral infections, glandular fever can make you feel physically and psychologically low and deplete your energy. Usually it clears within a few weeks, but you may be one of the unlucky few.

People try all sorts of remedies: vitamin supplements, echinacea, acupuncture and homeopathy. I don't know of any one thing that will help you bounce back quicker but, however hard it is, forcing yourself to gradually get back to normal life has to be the way forward. Can you negotiate to go back to work for a few hours a week and build it up? You could start some gentle exercise and increase that too. If you find it hard to kick-start yourself, I would consider some talking therapy, and speaking to your GP about whether it has made you depressed after all.

On gardening leave

Q I am an active 70-year-old man who enjoys gardening and walking. I've become very stiff in the past couple of weeks, especially in the morning. My upper arms feel weak and are painful to touch, which I put down to too much raking of leaves. Is it just the ageing process?

A Seventy is too young to feel old nowadays. Your symptoms suggest a condition called polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). The fancy name disguises the fact that there's no cure and no reason for this condition which causes painful and stiff upper arms and legs.

There's no one diagnostic test for PMR but the presence of three out of six criteria is enough to make it highly likely. These are: being over 65, upper-arm tenderness on both sides, morning stiffness lasting over an hour, onset within the past two weeks, depression and/or weight loss and a high ESR blood result. Since you've got five out of six criteria, you need a blood test - see your GP. If the diagnosis is right, you will probably be advised to take oral steroids and will feel better within days.

Cycle awry

Q I am a 43-year-old woman with endometriosis, which I believe is in remission. But since January, my periods have been getting much longer and my cycle shorter.

A Erratic periods are usually just due to hormonal disruption - a nuisance but not a sign of anything more sinister. See a GP or gynaecologist, have a vaginal examination, swabs for infections, cervical smear, ultrasound of your uterus and ovaries and possibly a look inside the uterus (hysteroscopy) to make sure all is well.

Must I have the MMR?

Q I am planning to get pregnant and have been offered the MMR vaccination against rubella - I'm not keen because of the adverse publicity.

A Supplies of rubella (German measles) vaccine have run out in England and Wales. Manufacturers are reluctant to make rubella vaccine on its own because kids now get it as part of the MMR so there's a limited market for a pure rubella jab. If you catch rubella in early pregnancy, the baby can be very damaged. It is a small but potentially devastating risk which you can easily avoid with the MMR.

· These answers should never be used as a substitute for seeking medical help. If you have a question for Dr Robinson, email or write to her c/o The Health Editor, The Guardian, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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