Chemical intolerance is also called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), sick building syndrome, toxic injury and other names. This has been a controversial topic within the medical community. There is no definitive diagnosis or treatment, leaving sufferers frustrated.
What Is It?
Chemical intolerance is a chronic condition involving a variety of symptoms after prolonged chemical exposure. Symptoms can be mild headache, rash or respiratory irritation. More severe forms include fatigue, seizures, immune system disorder, and many more. Because many of these symptoms resemble other illnesses, chemical sensitivity is often misdiagnosed. Since many suffering from chemical sensitivity also present symptoms of depression and anxiety, these patients are diagnosed and treated for these psychological disorders.
Over the years, the medical community has been divided on the recognition of chemical intolerance as a true medical condition. Some believe it's a mere hypersensitivity to chemicals, other attribute it to psychological disorders. However, a recent research study may offer some redemption for the misunderstood. Annals of Family Medicine recently published a study that offered more insight into this controversial condition. The study was conducted in two busy family practice clinics in Texas. Out of 400 participants, over 20% actually suffered from chemical intolerance. This is more than sensitivity to chemicals. The sufferers also had co-morbidities such as allergies, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, etc. Overall, they are less functional than those without chemical sensitivity. They also visit doctors and emergency rooms more often for co-morbid conditions, thus incurs significantly higher medical cost.
While there's no specific treatment for chemical sensitivity, certain lifestyle changes may help to improve or resolve symptoms. First of all, it's essential to identify and avoid the chemicals that are causing symptoms. These will be different for each individual and sometimes it's a process of elimination before identifying the culprit(s). Secondly, reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol in one's diet may help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. Third of all, certain medications could trigger side effects similar to chemical sensitivity symptoms. Be sure to discuss your medications with your physician to avoid unpleasant side effects or interactions.
The above study may be the first step in validating chemical sensitivity as a true medical condition. Currently the illness isn't recognized by major healthcare organizations because of limited evidence. As researchers gain more insights into the illness, then perhaps more effective and targeted treatments will be available to alleviate symptoms.
The new information also proves that environmental chemicals do, indeed, affect our health. And it's happening more often than we recognize. If one fifth of those who visit a primary care physicians office are intolerant to chemicals, then a significant percentage of the population suffer from the condition also. This should be a wake-up call to those turning a blind eye to chemical over-usage. In modern society, people routinely encounter hundreds of chemicals in personal use products, furniture, cleaning products, office supplies, construction, etc. Many of these chemicals are known to be toxic to human and environmental health. Some are carcinogenic. Many have not been tested thoroughly. It shouldn't be a surprise to see evidence of how chronic exposure to these chemicals affects our health. It should prompt people to take action against chemical usage and opt for more natural products.
Chemical intolerance or sensitivity may be more often than previously thought. The medical community long believed that symptoms from the condition are caused by psychosocial factors. As new research evidence shine light on the prevalence of chemical sensitivity, we hope to see more actions in terms of medical treatment and reimbursement as well as environmental changes to prevent future occurrence.