Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a disease that has been studied for a couple of decades, but still lacks scientific clarity and is not officially recognized as a medical condition, neither by the healthcare system nor by law. As a result, patients suffering from MCS are often isolated and left without specific, qualified assistance, but they can be helped by counseling as well as practical and emotional support.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, a disease of the modern world
“Allergic to the world”. In a certain sense, this is how someone suffering from MCS can be defined. The disease consists of an extreme reaction to chemical substances in the environment. In medical terms this is called hyperosmia, or rather, an extremely heightened and hypersensitive sense of smell with respect to a normal person. Even a small trace of chemical compound, via inhalation or contact, can create a variety of physical disorders, not only respiratory problems. Some examples include serious digestive and neurological disorders as well as problems with muscles and joints.
People suffering from MCS are forced to live in controlled environments, to limit their time in work and leisure environments and, in more severe cases, to isolate themselves from the world.
The main chemical substances that can cause such disorders are pesticides, solvents, varnish, deodorants, perfumes, detergents, PFAS, emissions from cars, airplanes, various factories, landfill sites and incinerators.
What is the treatment or cure for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity? Pending more specific research and the synthesis of new drugs, the only treatments available that provide a minimal benefit are:
- Avoiding contact and inhalation of chemical products
- Avoiding chemicals in food
- Taking non-synthetic supplements
A controversial question…
The scientific community is divided on the question of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. The World Health Organization does not recognize the condition as a pathology, but has added it into the category of “not otherwise specified allergies”. In Europe, the disease is recognized by Austria, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Finland. In Italy, where at least 300,000 patients have been diagnosed, the disease is not recognized by the Institute of Neurological Sciences (ISN), even though several regions such as Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Le Marche, Abruzzo, Lazio, Basilicata and recently Veneto have recognized the disease. Obtaining adequate treatment in Italy is difficult, if not impossible, since hospital facilities capable of treating Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are not available throughout the entire country. For this reason, many Italians suffering from MCS have gone to seek treatment abroad. One center of excellence is Breakspear Medical in London.
In Italy, however, improvements are slowly taking place. Recently, in the region of Lombardy, a motion was approved to set up a scientific forum aimed at identifying diagnostic criteria, health services and welfare in favor of patients. Moreover, next year people suffering from MCS can take advantage of a new specialized center in Torgiovannetto, the heart of Umbria, that is underway for patients suffering from MCS.
How to help MCS patients
Isolated, not understood and with no possible cure for practical and economic reasons. This is the dramatic situation of most people in Italy who suffer from MCS and lack adequate assistance. Given the disease is not officially recognized as a disease, people suffering from MCS in Italy today are often diagnosed with problems that are typically of a psychiatric nature. In cases when the disease is “unofficially” recognized by an individual doctor, other problems evolve. “With the exception of a few”, explains Dr. Alessandra Viola, assistant to Professor Genovesi, a luminary in Italy on MCS, “patients must sustain almost all of the medical costs on their own. Many, most of them actually, end up isolating themselves because they have no access to treatment or therapy “. Much can be done for these patients, however, in terms of proactive support, which Domedica strongly advocates through its counseling and remote support services. Many studies, in fact, have highlighted the possible psychosomatic character of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. In particular, H.R. Eriksen and H. Ursin proposed the term subjective health complaints in their notorious article published in April 2004. “These disorders are based on sensations that most people consider normal physiological processes. In some individuals these sensations become intolerable, in some cases there is a psychosomatic response and in others there is not”. Hence, a holistic approach that considers the whole person is probably the most effective approach for patients suffering from MCS.
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