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Fibromyalgia & Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Are external factors making you nauseous? Living with fibromyalgia (FMS) certainly has its own set of challenges, as we’ve mentioned in prior posts tying the disease to work absences, weather sensitivities, and sleep disturbances. Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is another common aggravator. The condition, also known as idiopathic environmental intolerance (E.I), is described as an unusually severe sensitivity to a whole host of external elements. Continue reading to find out more about multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and how the condition correlates with fibromyalgia.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Defined

To clarify, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is an allergic-like reaction onset by a wide range of  pollutants. Common toxins, said to trigger the condition, are used in everyday life by the public at large, listed below:

  • Solvents and cleaning agents
  • Perfumes, deodorants, hair products
  • Pesticides
  • Petrol, diesel and vehicle exhaust
  • Smoke (wood fire or secondhand tobacco)
  • New furniture or carpeting
  • Fumes from wet paint or fresh ink
  • Dust mites, pet fur and dander
  • Chlorine in drinking water, caffeine or food colouring in foods

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Symptoms are provoked when low doses of the chemical enters the body, from smell, touch or ingestion. If a person has MCS, their body overreacts to these irritants and displays symptoms of muscle and joint pain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, extreme fatigue, allergy reactions such as sinus problems, wheezing or breathlessness.

How Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) relates to Fibromyalgia

Researchers believe that MCS, chronic fatigue symptom (CFS), and FMS are all central sensitivity syndromes (CSS). These conditionals share the same family of illnesses, as well as common traits, as described below:

  • These illnesses, made up of the brain and spinal cord, manifests differently in each person. Meaning, a sufferer’s triggers and symptoms are individualised. For example, one sufferer with MCS may be able to tolerate essential oils and most brands of perfumes, body wash and washing liquid, however, they get a violent reaction from walking down the candle aisle at a store or drinking tap water. Likewise, in fibromyalgia, a person with climate sensitivities may be able to handle cold weather but find humidity weather unmanageable.
  • There’s stigma surrounding whether CSS conditions, specifically fibromyalgia, have been drummed up in a person’s head. This notion still exists despite numerous patient testimonials and scientific research that prove otherwise. This mindset trickles into patients being misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

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  • CSS illnesses are well known for their difficulty to diagnose. This is attributed to a number of factors, as explained in our prior post Factors Complicating Fibromyalgia Diagnosis, including complex variables in the diseases, as well as lack of tests and diagnostic criteria.
  • Symptoms of CSS illnesses, tied to CFS, FM AND MCS among other disorders, are unpredictable and often overlap. Additionally, these conditions are prone to share concurrent conditions, like restless leg syndrome and depression. It’s also common for CSS illnesses to coexist, which is evident in research, stemming out of the study: Prevalence of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: A Population-Based Study, reporting 11-15% of Americans have MCS, and of those, over 60% are also diagnosed with CFS, FMS and Gulf War Syndrome.
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Moving forward with MCS

Like fibromyalgia, the cause of MCS is unclear, although research is continuously being conducted in an effort to determine this. Some doctors consider MCS an immune response, similar to allergies. There’s also speculation surrounding the impact of high exposure to toxins, as well as, psychological or neurological disorders and depleting immune symptoms. Regardless of where your condition stems from, it’s best to move forward by attempting to determine the root irritant that causing your symptoms to flare up and avoid it. Unfortunately, the reality is that an estimated 100,000 different chemicals taint world and each year around 1,500 more are added to the environment, so it’s utterly impossible to avoid all chemicals.

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References:

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