Disease: Sick Building Syndrome (Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS)

    Sick building syndrome facts

    • Sick building syndrome is believed by some to be an illness caused by unknown agents in buildings.
    • Sick building syndrome is a controversial subject because many experts do not think it is a true syndrome.
    • Sick building syndrome has no known cause.
    • For those who believe the syndrome is real, many risk factors are cited.
    • Many nonspecific symptoms cited for the syndrome fit no pattern.
    • There are no diagnostic tests for the syndrome.
    • There is no specific treatment for the syndrome.
    • Complications of the alleged syndrome range from increased symptoms to inability to tolerate being inside a certain building and the problems, many job related, that may occur.
    • The prognosis of an alleged syndrome is unclear, but symptomatic treatments may reduce problems and result in a fair to good prognosis.
    • Prevention is difficult in a syndrome without a known cause, no diagnostic tests, and no defined treatments, but the Environmental Protection Agency provides prevention methods to address known disease problems that can be diagnosed and are known to be related to air-moving systems and construction materials used in buildings.

    What is sick building syndrome?

    Sick building syndrome (also termed environmental illness, multiple chemical sensitivity or MCS) is considered by some clinicians to be an illness in some people after they are exposed to as yet undefined chemical, biological, or physical agents that are thought to be found in building(s). The term was first used in 1986 and has been controversial ever since.

    Why is sick building syndrome controversial?

    Sick building syndrome is controversial. Although many people and some clinicians believe there is a disease "syndrome" related to buildings and their internal environment, many other clinicians and medical organizations say there is no convincing clinical evidence that such a medical syndrome exists. The controversy exists because a number of people have a constellation of nonspecific symptoms that have no proven etiology (cause), yet believe they occur from sources inside building(s). Medical organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and many experts say without any defined symptoms and no convincing evidence of a given source or cause, no test to diagnose the syndrome, and no treatment for the syndrome, there is no such medical syndrome.

    What causes sick building syndrome?

    As stated above, there is controversy about sick building syndrome and the controversy is exampled by the medical literature about its cause(s). Those that believe it is a true disease syndrome have only speculated that the cause(s) are multiple and depend on the patient's medical condition (for example, asthma, COPD) and how the compounds in the building (cigarette smoke, chemical outgassing from structural components, or biologics such as bacteria and fungi) interact with the person. The proponents further speculate that patients with the syndrome may be more sensitive to low concentrations of some compounds and may have heightened immune response to such compounds. Further, proponents suggest depression and anxiety may play a role in this syndrome.

    Others who say there is no evidence for this syndrome agree that certain chemicals, biologics, and physical agents found in some buildings can cause disease, but once these are identified (for example, lead, Legionnaires' disease, asbestos), then the disease is identified and is not a new "syndrome." The proponents of the "there is no such thing as sick building syndrome" say evidence for a new syndrome is simply nonexistent. A few individuals consider "sick building syndrome" to be a psychological problem.

    What are risk factors for sick building syndrome?

    Individuals who believe sick building syndrome is real consider the following as some of the major risk factors, but individual people may have only a few of these risk factors:

    • Spending time in a building that causes some or many of the nonspecific symptoms listed below
    • Heightened sensitivity to environmental antigens
    • Have one or more diagnosed medical problems (for example, asthma)
    • Heightened sensitivity of smell
    • Females are more likely to develop symptoms
    • Gulf War veteran
    • Depression
    • Anxiety

    However, proponents of the opposing view suggest these are general risk factors for many already-defined medical problems and offer little to clinicians who treat patients with the nonspecific symptoms (see symptoms section below) others attribute to this disease.

    What are sick building syndrome symptoms and signs?

    Proponents of the sick building syndrome agree that people considered to have the syndrome may exhibit any number of nonspecific symptoms that may be increased when the person is associated with certain buildings. The symptoms are as follows:

    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Bloating
    • Gas
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle discomfort (stiffness, pain, cramps)
    • Congestion
    • Sneezing
    • Itching
    • Skin rash
    • Sore throat
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pains
    • Cardiac arrhythmias
    • Mental changes (problems with concentration, memory, moods)

    There is no pattern or clear set of symptoms that fit criteria for a new syndrome in the opinion of many clinicians and investigators; these symptoms are often part of symptoms of many other diagnosable medical conditions.

    How is sick building syndrome diagnosed?

    The vast majority of clinicians, whether they agree or disagree that sick building syndrome exists as a medical entity, agree on one major point; there are no tests that can reliably diagnose the alleged sick building syndrome.

    What is the treatment for sick building syndrome?

    There are no proven treatments for this proposed disease. However, some doctors report reduction of patient's nonspecific symptoms by prescribing antidepressants (for example, fluoxetine [Prozac], paroxetine [Paxil]) or medications for anxiety or medications to help individuals sleep better. In addition, symptomatic treatment, while not treating the unknown cause(s), may provide individual symptom reduction or relief (for example, medication for nausea or headaches).

    Learn more about: Prozac | Paxil

    There may be known conditions in buildings that are related to this proposed syndrome that can be remedied by following building codes and other practices suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and OSHA; some of the major mechanisms are cited in the Prevention section below.

    What are complications of sick building syndrome?

    The complications of this alleged syndrome include increasing symptoms, interference of job productivity, job loss, necessity of relocation, extensive and expensive building testing (materials and airflow testing), and many medical tests to try to achieve a definitive diagnosis.

    What causes sick building syndrome?

    As stated above, there is controversy about sick building syndrome and the controversy is exampled by the medical literature about its cause(s). Those that believe it is a true disease syndrome have only speculated that the cause(s) are multiple and depend on the patient's medical condition (for example, asthma, COPD) and how the compounds in the building (cigarette smoke, chemical outgassing from structural components, or biologics such as bacteria and fungi) interact with the person. The proponents further speculate that patients with the syndrome may be more sensitive to low concentrations of some compounds and may have heightened immune response to such compounds. Further, proponents suggest depression and anxiety may play a role in this syndrome.

    Others who say there is no evidence for this syndrome agree that certain chemicals, biologics, and physical agents found in some buildings can cause disease, but once these are identified (for example, lead, Legionnaires' disease, asbestos), then the disease is identified and is not a new "syndrome." The proponents of the "there is no such thing as sick building syndrome" say evidence for a new syndrome is simply nonexistent. A few individuals consider "sick building syndrome" to be a psychological problem.

    What are risk factors for sick building syndrome?

    Individuals who believe sick building syndrome is real consider the following as some of the major risk factors, but individual people may have only a few of these risk factors:

    • Spending time in a building that causes some or many of the nonspecific symptoms listed below
    • Heightened sensitivity to environmental antigens
    • Have one or more diagnosed medical problems (for example, asthma)
    • Heightened sensitivity of smell
    • Females are more likely to develop symptoms
    • Gulf War veteran
    • Depression
    • Anxiety

    However, proponents of the opposing view suggest these are general risk factors for many already-defined medical problems and offer little to clinicians who treat patients with the nonspecific symptoms (see symptoms section below) others attribute to this disease.

    What are sick building syndrome symptoms and signs?

    Proponents of the sick building syndrome agree that people considered to have the syndrome may exhibit any number of nonspecific symptoms that may be increased when the person is associated with certain buildings. The symptoms are as follows:

    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Bloating
    • Gas
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle discomfort (stiffness, pain, cramps)
    • Congestion
    • Sneezing
    • Itching
    • Skin rash
    • Sore throat
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pains
    • Cardiac arrhythmias
    • Mental changes (problems with concentration, memory, moods)

    There is no pattern or clear set of symptoms that fit criteria for a new syndrome in the opinion of many clinicians and investigators; these symptoms are often part of symptoms of many other diagnosable medical conditions.

    How is sick building syndrome diagnosed?

    The vast majority of clinicians, whether they agree or disagree that sick building syndrome exists as a medical entity, agree on one major point; there are no tests that can reliably diagnose the alleged sick building syndrome.

    What is the treatment for sick building syndrome?

    There are no proven treatments for this proposed disease. However, some doctors report reduction of patient's nonspecific symptoms by prescribing antidepressants (for example, fluoxetine [Prozac], paroxetine [Paxil]) or medications for anxiety or medications to help individuals sleep better. In addition, symptomatic treatment, while not treating the unknown cause(s), may provide individual symptom reduction or relief (for example, medication for nausea or headaches).

    Learn more about: Prozac | Paxil

    There may be known conditions in buildings that are related to this proposed syndrome that can be remedied by following building codes and other practices suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and OSHA; some of the major mechanisms are cited in the Prevention section below.

    What are complications of sick building syndrome?

    The complications of this alleged syndrome include increasing symptoms, interference of job productivity, job loss, necessity of relocation, extensive and expensive building testing (materials and airflow testing), and many medical tests to try to achieve a definitive diagnosis.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    As stated above, there is controversy about sick building syndrome and the controversy is exampled by the medical literature about its cause(s). Those that believe it is a true disease syndrome have only speculated that the cause(s) are multiple and depend on the patient's medical condition (for example, asthma, COPD) and how the compounds in the building (cigarette smoke, chemical outgassing from structural components, or biologics such as bacteria and fungi) interact with the person. The proponents further speculate that patients with the syndrome may be more sensitive to low concentrations of some compounds and may have heightened immune response to such compounds. Further, proponents suggest depression and anxiety may play a role in this syndrome.

    Others who say there is no evidence for this syndrome agree that certain chemicals, biologics, and physical agents found in some buildings can cause disease, but once these are identified (for example, lead, Legionnaires' disease, asbestos), then the disease is identified and is not a new "syndrome." The proponents of the "there is no such thing as sick building syndrome" say evidence for a new syndrome is simply nonexistent. A few individuals consider "sick building syndrome" to be a psychological problem.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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