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People with environmental sensitivities (ES) often visit several doctors before being diagnosed with the condition.

There is no one test used to diagnose ES. Your doctor will start by taking a detailed medical and environmental history. You will be asked about environmental exposures in your community, your home, at work or school. You will also be asked about your hobbies, personal habits, diet and the medications you take. Your doctor will try to identify environmental exposures that may be triggering your symptoms.

She or he will do a careful physical exam and may order some tests. One of the challenges in diagnosing ES is that there are no consistently abnormal findings from physical exams or consistently abnormal results from lab tests. Your doctor will also want to rule out other conditions that could explain the signs and symptoms you are experiencing.

Your doctor will make sure that your symptoms meet the following diagnostic criteria:

  1. The symptoms are reproducible with repeated chemical exposure.
  2. The condition is chronic.
  3. Low levels of exposure (lower than previously or commonly tolerated) result in manifestations of the syndrome.
  4. The symptoms improve or resolve when the environmental factors that provoke the symptoms are removed.
  5. Responses occur to multiple substances that are chemically unrelated.
  6. Symptoms involve multiple organ systems.

Patients with ES are more likely to:

  • feel dull or groggy
  • have difficulty concentrating
  • feel ‘spacey’
  • have a heightened sense of smell

If you suspect that you have ES and are unable to find a doctor who has specific knowledge of this condition, try looking for a doctor who has a holistic approach, one who understands how ES can affect many areas of your life. A doctor who is aware of the connections between your environment and your health can help you make changes at home and at work, to avoid symptom-triggering exposures, and thereby improve your quality of life.

Your doctor may also suggest that you limit your exposure to other known environmental contaminants, to enable your body’s defence mechanisms to work better.


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Environmental Sensitivities

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