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Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)

Related Terms

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Background

  • Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) describes an allergy-like reaction or sensitivity to chemicals. Patients who have MCS experience symptoms, including headache, skin rash, dizziness, and nausea, after exposure to chemicals that most healthy individuals can tolerate. Symptoms may develop after exposure to chemicals from products, such as perfumes, gasoline, smoke, or chlorine.
  • The duration of exposure and quantity of the chemical that can elicit a reaction varies among patients. MCS may occur if a patient was exposed to high levels of toxins from a chemical spill. It may also occur after long-term contact with low-levels of chemicals, which may be present in an office with poor ventilation. If chemicals from inside a building appear to be causing the symptoms, the condition is often called sick building syndrome.
  • Several organizations, including the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, the American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, do not recognize MCS has an established disease. This is because a clear relationship between chemical exposure and symptoms has not been established. Even though symptoms develop after exposure to chemicals, researchers have not discovered how the chemicals trigger the reaction. It has been suggested that MCS may be an allergic or toxic reaction to chemicals, but there is no evidence to support either of these claims.
  • Some researchers believe that symptoms are caused by psychological factors rather than physiological factors. It has been reported that 50% of patients with symptoms of MCS meet the criteria for having anxiety or depressive disorders. However, it remains unclear whether these psychological disorders are simply associated with MCS or whether they cause the condition. Studies are being conducted to determine the pathology of the disease.
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Other Types of Chemical Sensitivities

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Causes

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Common Triggers

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Symptoms

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Integrative Therapies

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Prevention

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.