Abstract: Are syndromes in environmental medicine variants of somatoform disorders?

Med Hypotheses. 2003 Oct;61(4):419-30.  Wiesmuller GA, Ebel H, Hornberg C, Kwan O, Friel J.  Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, University Hospital Aachen, Aachen, Germany

To date, relatively little is known about the etiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, therapy, prevention and prognosis of environment-related syndromes like multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI), sick building syndrome (SBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), candida syndrome (CS) and burnout syndrome (BS). Part of the reason is that these syndromes have not been clearly defined and classified in scientific categories distinct from each other, and that they show clinical similarities to classified somatoform disorders.

Furthermore, there are at least three possible explanations for the existence of these syndromes: (1) The syndromes may result from the interaction of environmental factors, individual susceptibility and psychological factors (i.e., how they are perceived and seen by the patient); (2) they may reflect socially and culturally accepted methods of expressing distress; and/or (3) they may be iatrogenic.

Despite all the uncertainties in evaluation of environmental syndromes, physicians have the duty to take the affected person's problems seriously. A comprehensive systematic classification which better accounts for these complex clinical manifestations is long overdue. Until these syndromes are well defined, the terms used for them should definitely not be applied to connote a specific disease process.

PMID: 13679005 [PubMed – in process]

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