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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Friday, 6 March 2009

Imagine never being able to be around perfume or kitchen spray, well that is what happens when you have MCS, here to tell us more about the effect this debilitating condition can have on a family are .

Today we're highlighting an illness which many people know nothing about. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a rare debilitating illness which has struck college graduate Tanya Watters down in her prime.

In 2007 Tanya contracted MCS as a result of a scuba diving accident off the coast of Malaysia, when her foot became trapped in a rock and she panicked and surfaced too early. Over the next few days she felt very dizzy and strange.

Despite going back to the dive centre many times she was told that the dive was too shallow for her to have decompression illness. However after seven days she finally received treatment for her illness in the form of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (treatment in a 100% oxygen chamber) in Bangkok. She later learned that she had suffered decompression illness. A few days after the treatment Tanya began to feel symptoms of dizziness coming on again so called home to find out what she should do. She was told to come home immediately and was treated in Ireland for her illness.

Having lived in the States for a few months at this stage in the hope that regular treatment from this doctor would make her decompression illness go away she was diagnosed with having Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a disorder which caused her to suffer from flu like symptoms when exposed to chemicals such as perfume or polish.

The following are some symptoms are associated with MCS;

. Tiredness, varies between exposures. If the chemical exposure is bad then she will have to go to bed for a few hours. If it's not too much of an exposure then she has to sit down for a while.
. Tanya also gets pain down her right side
. Tanyas eyes can sometimes be tired and red

More Information on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
In broad terms it means an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants including solvents, VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds), perfumes, petrol, diesel, smoke, "chemicals" in general and often encompasses problems with regard to pollen, house dust mites, and pet fur & dander.

Multiple chemical sensitivity unlike true allergies - where the underlying mechanisms of the problem are relatively well understood widely accepted, is generally regarded as "idiopathic" - meaning that it has no known mechanism of causation & it's processes are not fully understood.

The problem here is made more difficult still, due to the variable nature of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity from one patient to the next & this often makes treatment with conventional medicine & practices ineffective or inappropriate; for most sufferers with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, the avoidance of pollutants/toxicants is the key.

What CAN be said about defining Multiple Chemical Sensitivity - and in order to help the patient decide whether they truly have MCS or another allergy-related illness - is that the following deciding criteria apply to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity:

. The patient exhibits problems - often an allergy-like reaction - to both large - often extremely low levels of irritants/toxicants/triggers : other individuals present at the same time may be unable to detect anything at all or anything unusual or out of the ordinary.
. The problem is ongoing, ie. chronic, and not a "one-off" event.
. The same symptoms are reproducible with repeated exposure to the same triggers.
. The patient is affected by many different triggers.
. The patient improves when triggers are absent.