To characterize patients diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or fibromyalgia (FM), to compare their level of function with Canadian population average values, and to assess factors associated with function.
Chart review and abstraction of clinical information.
The Environmental Health Clinic (EHC) at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Ont, which is a provincial referral centre for patients with illnesses with suspected environmental links, especially MCS, CFS, and FM.
A total of 128 consecutive patients diagnosed with 1 or more of MCS, CFS, or FM, seen between January 2005 and March 2006 at the EHC.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, comorbid diagnoses, duration of illness, health services usage, life stresses, helpful therapeutic strategies, and functional impairment measured by the Short Form–36, compared with Canadian population average values. Factors significantly associated with function in bivariate analyses were included in multiple linear and logistic regression models.
The patient population was predominantly female (86.7%), with a mean age of 44.6 years. Seventy-eight patients had discrete diagnoses of 1 of MCS, CFS, or FM, while the remainder had 2 or 3 overlapping diagnoses. Most (68.8%) had stopped work, and on average this had occurred 3 years after symptom onset. On every Short Form–36 subscale, patients had markedly lower functional scores than population average values, more so when they had 2 or 3 of these diagnoses. Having FM, younger age at onset, and lower socioeconomic status were most consistently associated with poor function.
Patients seen at the EHC demonstrated marked functional impairment, consistent with their reported difficulties working and caring for their homes and families during what should be their peak productive years. Early comprehensive assessment, medical management, and social and financial support might avoid the deterioration of function associated with prolonged illness. Education and information resources are required for health care professionals and the public, along with further etiologic and prognostic research.