Patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia have shown increased sensitivity to certain environmental chemicals. This sensitivity is referred to as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is also common in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. It involves a severe reaction to chemical exposure, including dust, pet fur, and smoke. Most of these chemicals are found in the environment and can even include chemicals in regular perfumes or air fresheners.
So, how do you live with fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)? How do you engage in daily activities without breaking them down?
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Overview of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can affect both young and old. It is often characterized by pain in the skeleton and muscles and shows symptoms like general fatigue, tenderness, sleep, and cognitive abnormalities.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but recent studies have speculated that it may be due to certain genetic dispositions influenced by one or more triggers like infection, trauma, or stress. Some researchers also think that specific gene mutations may affect the transmission of chemical pain signals between nerve cells in the body.
It is also speculated that the multisite pain experienced by most fibromyalgia patients results from an alteration in the processing of pain by the brain and spinal cord, leading to a low pain threshold or an amplification of pain sensations in several parts of the body.
About 4 million American adults live with diagnosed fibromyalgia, and most of these cases are women. The symptoms of fibromyalgia are often the same as some other chronic conditions, making it difficult to diagnose.
To diagnose fibromyalgia, you must have experienced pain in four of the five regions of pain, as stated by the 2016 revision to the fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria.
What is multiple chemical sensitivity?
Multiple chemical sensitivity is a health condition where a person has an increased sensitivity to chemical substances present in the environment. These sensitivities could be through smell, touch, or ingestion.
Usually, these chemical substances are found in everyday products like perfumes, cigarette smoke, fragrances, paint fumes, and gasoline fumes—industrial chemicals and chemicals from certain drugs.
Symptoms can include wheezing, breathlessness, allergic reactions, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and nausea. These symptoms can also vary depending on the severity of the multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Also, the chemical substances that Mr. A reacts to might provoke only a mild reaction in Mr. B or no reaction at all.
The cause of MCS is unknown, but symptoms can surface after prolonged and high-level exposure to a specific chemical. There is no medical cure for multiple chemical sensitivity, and the best way to handle it is to limit exposure.
Multiple chemical sensitivity in fibromyalgia
Some scientists believe that multiple chemical sensitivity is closely related to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia to the extent that they are collectively referred to as central sensitivity syndromes.
According to this article, some people with fibromyalgia have multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).
It can be difficult to appropriately diagnose if you have MCS and fibromyalgia because the symptoms are closely related. The best you can do is to watch out for triggers by tracking your symptoms closely. Triggers like exposure to fragrance, perfume fumes, and other chemicals indicate multiple chemical sensitivity.
When you observe specific triggers, you should discuss them with your doctor so that each condition can be accurately diagnosed and treated. You can also engage in healthy practices like a good diet, rest, exercise, and sleep.
How to live with multiple chemical sensitivity in fibromyalgia
There is no cure or specific treatment option for multiple chemical sensitivity in fibromyalgia, which might be because there is no definite cause. However, there are different things you can put in place to aid in aggravating the symptoms.
Here are ways to live with multiple chemical sensitivity in fibromyalgia:
1. Identify triggers.
This step is crucial when it comes to living with MCS. The inability to identify your triggers means you cannot know what to avoid and remove from your immediate surroundings. You need to be able to track down your exposure and identify the things that cause allergic-like reactions.
You can even be more deliberate by making a list of chemicals often associated with multiple chemical sensitivity, getting them, and trying to check the amounts of these chemicals that cause a reaction.
For safety purposes, please do this with your doctor’s guidance.
2. Avoid exposure.
When you have identified the things that act as triggers, the next step is avoiding exposure to them. Because most of these chemicals are abundantly found in the environment, you should take measures when leaving the house, like wearing a nose mask, having your car, and possibly limiting your outings.
3. Purify your environment.
It can be more complex than you expect to try to have a chemical-free environment, but it is entirely doable. The best way to purify your environment is to have adequate ventilation, but with the current housing plans, this might be more challenging than it sounds. Alternatively, you can purchase quality, chemical-free air purifiers and always check the content of your cleaning products.
4. Manage each disease differently.
Fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity are two distinct health conditions and should not be managed as a single condition. The best way to manage them is to do so differently. However, certain practices like detoxification and a healthy diet could work for both conditions.
5. Detoxify constantly.
Another way you can help your body to manage multiple chemical sensitivity is to detox constantly. Detoxification is the removal of toxins from the body and is one of the ways to live healthily. You can detox through healthy bowel movements, healthy diets, and also the use of detox binders.
6. Track your symptoms.
Because multiple chemical sensitivity sometimes occurs in people with fibromyalgia, it is always best to constantly track your symptoms so you can be able to observe improvements and worsening symptoms. This helps you to track the effectiveness of your treatment options.
7. Work with your doctor.
One of the best ways to live with multiple chronic sensitivity in fibromyalgia is always to carry your doctor along and be actively involved in your management process.
8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
It’s okay when you feel tired and down. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and applaud your efforts. Living with multiple chronic conditions is not easy, and the fact that you are actively trying is enough feat.
Avoid comparison and toxic positivity. Learn how to seek help as well.
Living with multiple chemical sensitivity can make life with fibromyalgia much worse. It’s like dealing with severe body pains and allergic reactions every day!
Yes, it is challenging but doable.
Sometimes, you might not be strong enough, and that’s fine. You can show yourself some grace and spend the day indoors—it’s part of living with multiple chronic conditions.
Have you heard of multiple chemical sensitivity before? Or have you met someone who has MCS?
READ ALSO: 8 Best ways to cope with mental health effects of Fibromyalgia