Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

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MCS or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is described as a severe allergy-like reaction or sensitivity to multiple kinds of pollutants, which include diesel, VOC or Volatile Organic Compounds, gasoline, smoke and perfume, just to name a few.
A person who suffers from this condition is basically allergic or sensitive to chemicals in general and includes a wide range of symptoms. Such symptoms are usually linked to the environment, which is why the condition is also referred to as environmental illness, sick building syndrome or idiopathic environmental intolerance.


What are the usual symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
The symptoms of MCS vary from one person to another and the list is almost endless. Experts have pointed out that there are no distinct or major differences when it comes to the symptoms of MCS and other medical conditions such as ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and CF (Chronic Fatigue) as well as its variations like Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction (CFIDS) or Post-viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS).
However, most patients who are known to suffer from MCS have reported to experience the following symptoms:

  • Burning or stinging eyes
  • Digestive upset
  • Dizziness/headache/migraine/vertigo
  • Lethargy/extreme fatigue
  • Muscles and/or joint pain
  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Rhinitis or runny nose
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Skin rashes and other related conditions
  • Sleeping problems
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing and/or similar respiratory problems

What are the possible causes of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
Constant exposure to chemicals and other toxic materials can certainly make people sick. Common irritants like smoke or dust can even aggravate medical conditions like asthma or skin diseases.
Some people may easily get sick even when they are only exposed to certain chemicals for a short period of time. It is not exactly clear how levels of exposure can affect people because of varying situations. Some physicians have suggested that the condition can be considered an immune response which is similar to experiencing an allergic reaction.
As previously stated, the symptoms of MCS vary and there have been cases in which mental health issues like anxiety and depression were linked to MCS.
The nature of MCS is not fully understood, mainly because of its symptoms which are closely related to other medical conditions. As of now, there is no definite consensus regarding the cause of MCS.


Diagnosis
The ICD or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems does not consider environmental sensitivity or MCS as a valid diagnosis, which means that it is still unclear as to whether the symptoms are psychologically or physiologically generated. People who may be suffering from MCS do not easily show visible and distinct signs or abnormalities in their laboratory test results.
There are no current dependable tests that can successfully diagnose MCS, but the condition can be carefully assessed through diagnosis of exclusion. The first step to diagnose the condition is to identify and then treat all the other conditions, which are present.
People who potentially suffer from MCS often complain of a plethora of symptoms. Some who may have MCS were reported to suffer from various medical conditions like allergies, anxiety, depression, hypercalcemia, lupus, orthostatic syndromes or thyroid disorders, among others. The best option is to properly evaluate and then treat the condition.
MCS must be diagnosed in accordance to the six standardized criteria as recommended by the 1999 Medical Consensus Statement. Please refer below:

  • The symptoms are reproducible with repeated exposure to chemicals
  • The medical condition has been going on for quite some time
  • Low or commonly tolerated levels of exposure have resulted in the indications of the syndrome
  • The symptoms of the condition have improved or have been completely resolved when the triggering chemicals are expunged
  • Several responses would take place to many chemically unrelated substances
  • Multiple organ symptoms are experienced such as abdominal cramping, aching joints, diarrhea, ear ache, headache, heart palpitations, itchy eyes, mental confusion, nausea, runny nose, scalp pain, scratchy throat or upset stomach.
Treatment
Several studies have been conducted and showed that half of the patients who have MCS also meet the criteria for anxiety disorders and depression. Therefore, some doctors will prescribe antidepressants, which include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Examples of such treatment are citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine and paroxetine.
Some patients have reported that their symptoms of MCS were relieved with the help of medicines that are for anxiety or sleep disorders. Another technique to reduce symptoms is to eliminate certain types of foods, as well as, staying away from known allergens or irritants.

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