Environmental Illness (EI) is a common underdiagnosed condition. Symptoms associated with EI can be many. They are often non- specific, and can be very easily confused with stress or mental illness related symptoms.
What is an environmental illness?
An environmental illness can occur when you are exposed to toxins or substances in the environment that make you sick. These health hazards may be found where you live, work, or play. Maybe you have headaches that only occur on weekends. Or maybe you began to feel sick and got a rash after moving into a newly built home. These symptoms can be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. For example:
- Those weekend headaches may be caused by a broken furnace leaking carbon monoxide.
- Materials in new buildings may cause nausea and rashes. And the paper that makes up the outside layers of drywall promotes mould growth. Exposure to these moulds may cause symptoms and could make you sick.
What causes environmental illnesses?
Exposure to some types of chemicals can cause an environmental illness. The more of the chemical you are exposed to, the more likely you are to get ill. Examples include:
- Chemicals in cigarettes are known to cause lung cancer.
- Exposure to asbestos, an insulating material found in some older buildings, can cause tumours, lung cancer, and other diseases.
- Wood-burning stoves and poorly vented gas ranges can produce smoke or gases that can cause breathing problems.
- Unsafe drinking water from a rural well polluted with pesticides or other poisons from a nearby industrial plant could cause allergies, cancer, or other problems.
- Certain chemicals in the workplace may cause sterility, mainly in men.
- Lead poisoning can cause health problems in children. It can also cause high blood pressure, brain damage, and stomach and kidney problems in adults.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of an environmental illness depend on what is causing it. The symptoms may be like those you can get with other conditions. Examples are:
- Fever and chills.
- A cough.
- Muscle aches.
- A rash.
If you think that exposure to toxic chemicals or other health hazards could be making you sick, talk to your doctor.
How are environmental illnesses diagnosed?
An environmental illness can be hard to diagnose. You and your doctor may not know what is causing your symptoms. Or you may mistake your symptoms for another problem. Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause a wide range of common medical problems or make them worse. An exposure history, which is a set of questions about your home, workplace, habits, jobs, lifestyle, and hobbies, can help you find out what is making you sick. It may point to chemicals or other hazards that you’ve been exposed to recently or in the past. Keep a journal of your symptoms, and discuss it with your doctor. It may help you find patterns in your symptoms. This can help you and your doctor find out what is causing your illness.
How are they treated?
Early treatment includes stopping or reducing your exposure to what is making you sick. These things might help:
- Improve your air quality by getting rid of the source of pollution. Don’t allow smoking in your house. If smokers live in or visit your home, ask them to smoke outside.
- Increase the amount of fresh air coming into your home. Adjust gas stoves, or replace them with electric ones. Check to make sure that exhaust fans work. Installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home can also protect you and your family.
- Stop the health effects of mould exposure. Keep a dry environment indoors to reduce exposure to mould. Mould should be removed from buildings by trained professionals.
Further treatment will depend on your symptoms and what is causing your illness.
|Nervous system||Heightened sense of smell Difficulty concentrating Difficulty remembering Apparent variability in mental processes Feeling dull or groggyFeeling “spacey” Headaches Restlessness, hyperactivity, agitation, insomnia Depression Lack of coordination or balance Anxiety Seizures Tinnitus|
|Upper respiratory system||Stuffy nose, itchy nose (the “allergic salute”) Blocked ears Sinus stuffiness, pain, infections|
|Lower respiratory system||Cough Wheezing, shortness of breath, heavy chest Asthma Frequent bronchitis or pneumonia|
|Eyes||Red, watery eyes Dark circles under eyes Pain in eyes Blurred, disturbed vision|
|Gastrointestinal system||Heartburn Nausea Bloating Constipation Diarrhea Abdominal pain|
|Endocrine system||Fatigue, lethargy Blood sugar fluctuations|
|Musculoskeletal system||Joint and muscle pain in the extremities and/or back Muscle twitching or spasms Muscle weakness|
|Cardiovascular system||Rapid or irregular heartbeat Cold extremities High or low blood pressure|
|Skin (dermatological system)||Flushing (whole body, or isolated, such as ears, nose or cheeks) Hives Eczema Other rashesItching|
|Genitourinary system||Frequency and urgency to urinate Painful bladder spasms|
- Cognitive problems
- Memory loss
- Mood problems
- Personality changes
These symptoms can be mistaken as being caused by other disorders, such as:
- Chronic fatigue
Infections can also cause symptoms of toxic brain. Bacteria, parasites, viruses and other infections can wreak havoc on the brain, quickly. These infectious agents release toxins, which cause inflammation, reduce blood flow and impair healthy brain function. These are some of the illnesses that can lead to brain infections:
- Lyme disease and related infections
- West Nile virus
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Herpes viruses
Brain infections can cause a multitude of symptoms, including:
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Issues with judgment and impulse control
- Changes to personality
- Problems with attention, focus, and concentration
- Memory loss
BECAUSE THESE SYMPTOMS RESEMBLE THOSE OF OTHER DISORDERS, PEOPLE WITH BRAIN INFECTIONS ARE OFTEN MISDIAGNOSED WITH:
- Bipolar disorder
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias
- Multiple Sclerosis
Meanwhile, without the appropriate treatment—the infection persists, causing a potential worsening of symptoms and further injury to the brain. It is important that proper diagnosis is made, as early as possible. One important way to do this is with spect imaging, says Dr Amen from the Amen Clinics. On SPECT scans, infections in the brain can appear as an overall pattern of significantly high or low blood flow and look similar to a brain affected by toxins. With the sensitivity of SPECT, we can identify a potentially infectious process in the brain and get the patient onto the right course of treatment. SPECT can also show recovery after treatment. For more information on Toxic Encephalopathy you may want to read this article by Dr Grace Ziem 23 Toxic Encephalopathy Or this article on Toxic Encephalopathy on Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521923/ The symptoms and signs of toxic encephalopathy may be mimicked by many psychiatric, metabolic, inflammatory, neoplastic, and degenerative diseases of the nervous system. Thus, the importance of good history-taking that considers exposure and a comprehensive neurological examination cannot be overemphasized in the diagnosis of toxic encephalopathy. Neuropsychological testing and neuroimaging typically play ancillary roles. The recognition of toxic encephalopathy is important because the correct diagnosis of occupational disease can prevent others (e.g., workers at the same worksite) from further harm by reducing their exposure to the toxin, and also often provides some indication of prognosis. Physicians must therefore be aware of the typical signs and symptoms of toxic encephalopathy, and close collaborations between neurologists and occupational physicians are needed to determine whether neurological disorders are related to occupational neurotoxin exposure. Reference 1 https://www.amenclinics.com/conditions/brain-toxicity-infection/
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