Doctors overlook chemical illnesses, study finds

Chemical intolerance contributes to the illnesses of 1 in 5 patients but the condition seldom figures in their diagnosis, according to clinical research directed by a UT Medicine San Antonio physician.

Clinical tools are available to identify chemical intolerance but health care practitioners may not be using them, lead author David Katerndahl, M.D., M.A., said. The study is in the July 9 issue of . UT Medicine is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

Avoidance of triggers

The study's authors said physicians need to know how chemical intolerance affects certain people and understand that conventional therapies can be ineffective. Some patients would improve by avoiding certain chemicals, foods and even , the authors said.

Patients with chemical intolerance go to the doctor more than others, are prone to having multi-system symptoms and are more apt to have to quit their job due to , the authors said.

90-question survey

The study involved 400 patients who gave personal health information while waiting to be seen at primary care clinics in San Antonio, one in UT Medicine and the other in the University Health System. The researchers asked the patients to respond to 90 questions about their illnesses, mental health and ability to function.

In the end, the authors said, 20.3 percent of the patients questioned met the scientific criteria for chemical intolerance.

Patient inclusion

Researchers surveyed patients with chronic conditions such as allergies, asthma, diabetes and heart disease. They excluded patients who were at the clinics for acute conditions such as earaches, flu or .

The origins of chemical intolerance have been the subject of much speculation, the authors acknowledge, but the condition is also understudied. People with chemical intolerance, or "CI," are highly sensitive to common substances such as cleaning products, tobacco smoke, fragrances, pesticides, new carpet and auto exhaust.

Important consideration in care

"Apart from the debate over causality, the fact that so many meet the criteria for chemical intolerance holds particular relevance for primary care providers," said Dr. Katerndahl, professor of family and community medicine who is supported by the Dr. Mario E. Ramirez Distinguished Professorship.

Chemically intolerant individuals often have symptoms that affect multiple organ systems simultaneously, especially the nervous system. Symptoms commonly include fatigue, changes in mood, difficulty thinking and digestive problems.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gluten intolerance in Finland has doubled

Mar 05, 2010

The occurrence of gluten intolerance in the Finnish population has doubled in the past twenty years. In the early 1980s, about one per cent of adults in Finland had gluten intolerance, but the figure has since gone up to ...

Blood testing for sensitivity, allergy or intolerance to food

Mar 19, 2012

Blood testing to determine a link between food and illness is increasingly common, but some tests are not considered diagnostic and can lead to confusion, according to a primer in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). ...

Panel asks dairy avoiders: Are you getting enough?

Feb 24, 2010

Lactose intolerance is a real and important clinical syndrome, but quantifying its public health burden is challenging. An NIH Consensus Development panel was convened this week to assess the available evidence on lactose ...

Recommended for you

Testosterone testing has increased in recent years

20 hours ago

(HealthDay)—There has been a recent increase in the rate of testosterone testing, with more testing seen in men with comorbidities associated with hypogonadism, according to research published online Nov. ...

AMA: Hospital staff should consider impact of CMS rule

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—Hospital medical staff members need to consider the impact of a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that revised the conditions of participation for hospitals ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.