Multiple chemical sensitivity

Multiple chemical sensitivity
Idiopathic environmental intolerances, universal allergy, 20th-century disease, chemical hypersensitivity syndrome, chemical sensitivity, sensitivity-related illness, total allergy syndrome, cerebral allergy[1]
Pseudomedical diagnosis
RisksNocebo
MeSHD018777

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), also known as idiopathic environmental intolerances (IEI), is a disputed chronic condition characterized by symptoms that the affected person attributes to low-level exposures to commonly used chemicals.[2] Symptoms are typically vague and non-specific. They may include fatigue, headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

Commonly attributed substances include scented products, pesticides, plastics, synthetic fabrics, smoke, petroleum products, and paint fumes.[2]

Although the symptoms themselves are real, and can be disabling, MCS is not recognized as an organic, chemical-caused illness by the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, or any of several other professional medical organizations.[3][4] Blinded clinical trials show that people with MCS react as often and as strongly to placebos as they do to chemical stimuli; the existence and severity of symptoms is related to perception that a chemical stimulus is present.[5][6] Some attribute the symptoms to depression, somatoform disorders, or anxiety disorders.[7]

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms range in severity from mild to disabling.

Symptoms are common, but vague and non-specific for the condition. The most common are feeling tired, "brain fog" (short-term memory problems, difficulty concentrating), gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and muscle pain.[2]

A partial list of other symptoms patients have attributed to MCS include: difficulty breathing, pains in the throat, chest, or abdominal region, skin irritation, headaches, neurological symptoms (nerve pain, pins and needles feelings, weakness, trembling, restless leg syndrome), tendonitis, seizures, visual disturbances (blurring, halo effect, inability to focus), anxiety, panic and/or anger, sleep disturbance, suppression of immune system, digestive difficulties, nausea, indigestion/heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea, joint pains, vertigo/dizziness, abnormally acute sense of smell (hyperosmia), sensitivity to natural plant fragrance or natural pine terpenes, dry mouth, dry eyes, and an overactive bladder.[2][8][9][10]