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Membrane Power: Chapter 1

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Membrane Power: Chapter 2

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Membrane Power: Chapter 3

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The Top 20
Overlapping Disorders
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity & Gulf War Syndrome

By Albert Donnay, MHS, Executive Director, MCS Referral & Resources

"CFS is defined by the US Centers for Disease Control "for research purposes" as persistent or relapsing fatigue lasting greater than six months that is unexplained by any other physical disorder. This fatigue also must occur in combination with at least four of the following: 1) short term memory loss, 2) sore throat, 3) tender lymph nodes in neck or armpit, 4) muscle pain, 5) joint pain without swelling or redness, 6) headaches, 7) unrefreshing sleep, or 8) "malaise" that lasts more than 24 hours after exercise. CFS may develop at any age but usually starts in mid-life, often in conjunction with a flu-like illness, and is diagnosed more frequently in women. Numerous biochemical abnormalities have been identified in CFS patients but none as yet are considered diagnostic. Many treatments are available, mostly for specific symptoms or deficiencies, but outcomes vary and no cure is known. Avoiding stressors of all kinds is primary.

FMS is defined by chronic muscle and joint pain on both sides of the body, pain above and below the waist, and pain anywhere along the spine. It is usually associated with disrupted sleep, chronic fatigue, cognitive problems, and many other variable symptoms. According to the American College of Rheumatology, FMS affects about 3% of the adult U.S. population and, like CFS and MCS, is much more common in women. The diagnosis is confirmed with a brief physical exam that involves the testing of 18 pressure (or tender) points. As with CFS and MCS, the onset of FMS may be gradual or sudden. Sudden onset is usually associated with physical injury or trauma, such as a car accident or difficult childbirth, although FMS also may be initiated by infections or chemical and drug exposures. Treatments focus on relieving pain, avoiding stress, improving sleep and correcting hormonal imbalances. Outcomes vary and no cure-all is known.

MCS, like CFS, is diagnosed by the patient's history and the consideration of other possible chemical sensitivity disorders like lupus and porphyria. It is defined by multiple symptoms affecting multiple organs (such as the nose, eyes, lungs, and central nervous system) that wax and wane in response to multiple chemical exposures at or below previously tolerated levels. MCS usually starts from a chronic (long lasting) or acute (short but high level) exposure to one or more "sensitizing" toxins such as formaldehyde, the pesticide Dursban, and carbonless copy paper. This initial sensitivity then spreads, with many other low-level exposures triggering similar symptoms. These triggers may be inhaled (like perfume), ingested (like food, alcohol and drugs), or absorbed by the skin (like detergent residues and pesticides). A random survey of 4,000 adults in California by the stateís Department of Health Services in 1995--funded by the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry--found 15.9% complained of being "unusually sensitive" to "everyday chemicals" in common household products and 6.3% said theyíd been given the diagnosis of MCS or Environmental Illness by a doctor. Similar percentages were found again in 1996 when the same questions were asked of 4,000 others. Treatment focuses on avoiding and controlling the exposures that trigger symptoms, combined with exercise and sauna as tolerated, and nutritional supplements to address common vitamin and mineral deficiencies."

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