Physicians Have Limitations When Diagnosing Mold Sensitivity
By Cesar Collado
When faced with debilitating symptoms, the path to identifying the cause of such symptoms – such as diagnosing mold sensitivity – can be a difficult and expensive process for the patient and medical professionals. There is also a time and risk element as physicians often misdiagnose diseases with common symptoms. A mold patient’s path can involve numerous physician specialties, expensive imaging and blood diagnostics, pain and suffering, misdiagnosis, unnecessary medications with adverse events, etc. It can also be prohibitively expensive. Covering insurance deductibles and out of pocket expenses is financially impactful. High medical costs contribute to the expensive health insurance premiums we pay. Missed work also carries significant opportunity costs.
Given the high rate of mold exposures, recognition of severe chronic illness caused by mold can lead to a quick response utilizing available solutions within a patient’s control. One can learn options to find manageable ways to remedy the situation. In the worst possible case, a person may have to leave their home and all belongings behind to starting over. However, with knowledge and vigilance, testing and properly cleaning porous and non-porous may be possible for many of your belongings and furnishings.
Here are Some Simple Facts to Help You Consider Mold
- Approximately 70% of households have amplified mold in some form.
- It is estimated that 25% of the population carry genes that put them at risk of mold-related health issues.
- Mold growth can be prevented by being vigilant about home moisture and keeping humidity levels below 50%.
- Following water damage, mold takes around 48 hours to begin significantly growing.
- Large mold problems (> 9 sq. ft.) need to be addressed by professionals.
Beginning the Journey with a Physician
Traditional Western physicians, MDs, spend very limited time with each patient and rarely discuss their entire medical history. It is not uncommon for primary care physicians to stick to quick diagnostics and rely on experience and habitual medical solutions. They will more often refer the more complex diagnosis to specialists.
There are few physicians that will take the time necessary to give attention, and further investigate, the patient’s medical situation and history, let alone potential environmental causes of illness. Many of these physicians and practitioners have transitioned into integrative medicine and have their own practice. This allows them to limit the number of patients seen during the day. An internet search will help you find integrative or environmental physicians in your local area (start at www.iseai.org). I often encounter environmental illness physicians who have experienced the debilitating disease and focus on helping others overcome environmentally acquired illness (EAI).
Patients usually begin the process of seeking treatment when they are having symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with their ability to work and function at home. Some will do research online; however, visiting a primary care or family physician is often their first step.
The most severe and chronically ill patients suffer from very similar symptomatic profiles. When you look at symptoms that are significant enough to cause concern with patients and doctors, you can see symptom similarities amongst many disparate disease states. In many cases, the same symptom can be described with subtle differences, depending on the therapeutic area that treats the patient. This means that we are dependent on each specific physician’s capabilities to interpret the symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis.
Most healthcare professionals work very hard under challenging circumstances; but, it is a reality that some doctors are more skilled than others. Nonetheless, they are all physicians; and it is nearly impossible to determine which doctors are best for you without recommendations or research.
Traditional Empirical Medicine Makes Mold Diagnosis Difficult
Traditional Medical Doctors (MDs) are trained in and follow empirical methodology in diagnosing and treating patients. Physicians will observe symptoms and ask the patient questions on their symptomology. They will then order diagnostics, imaging, or employ tests to provide facts based on objective testing. At times, diagnostics or imaging can require subjective opinions, possibly a referral, and often several days to obtain the results.
Physicians will often make educated guesses based on their initial impression of the symptoms prior to completing diagnostics. This is a common practice and is based on a subjective cost/risk analysis on whether to begin treating prior to confirmation. In some cases, the cost of the diagnostic exceeds practical limits and the risk of treating with medicine is low. It becomes problematic when physicians diagnose a disease by exclusion. These diseases have no known cause or origin and result in significant medication management.
The Challenge of Interpreting Symptoms from Patient Descriptions
As shown in the images above, many mold symptoms are common to multiple diseases. It is difficult to differentiate several symptoms based on diagnostic guidelines that have been developed across different physician specialties. It is easy to understand when comparing patient descriptions:
- Cognitive Dysfunction or Symptoms of the Central Nervous System: brain fog, while others refer to memory loss, confusion, dizziness, mood swings, behavior changes, cognitive impairment, or decline in intellectual functioning.
- Chronic Fatigue: Fainting, fatigue, lethargy, sleepiness, weakness, depression, exhaustion
- Mood: Behavior change, mood swings, dementia, sleepiness, anxiety, altered mental status, and depression
- Motor dysfunction: tremor, impaired balance, weakness, muscle soreness, sleepiness, difficulty walking, lethargy, stupor
- Headaches: Sinus headache, migraine, chronic pain
- Respiratory: Shortness of breath, sneezing, congestion, breathing difficulties, sore throat
The different variations in these symptom descriptions can impact a patient’s diagnosis. It is a challenge for physicians to get a patient to accurately describe a symptom to the degree necessary to give the proper diagnosis given the time spent with the patient. Many specialties that see primary care patients see 20-40 patients in a single day.
The Systemic Challenge for the Health Care System
It is common for a primary care physician to make a referral early in the process to a specialist once they determine whether there is a quick primary care solution. The problem is that there are many very different specialties that could receive referrals. Subtle differences on how patients describe symptoms can have a significant impact on the next level of treatment they receive. With each physician specialty, very specific diagnostics and treatments are utilized. Some specialists do spend more time per patient to be more comprehensive when investigating symptoms.
Here are examples on how referrals can lead down very different paths:
- A patient emphasizing headache, dizziness, or cognitive dysfunction using any of the descriptors above might be referred to a neurologist. A neurologist will often begin with a CT scan or MRI, and will likely follow with pharmaceutical intervention.
- An identical patient who describes their mood or behavior might be sent to a psychiatrist.
- Another identical patient who focuses on pain may be sent to a Rheumatologist.
- Others can be sent to gastroenterologists, immunologists, etc.
These specialties are usually investigated in serial fashion. Thus, a patient would have to go through the diagnostic process of each specialty and may endure a failed treatment regimen or two over a lengthy period of time before being referred to another specialist. It is not uncommon for patients to see numerous specialists over years, trying multiple medications before finding a physician who diagnoses mold as the issue.
While it is common to read about environmental hazards in the news, it is a different story in many doctor’s offices. Most physicians are very quick to identify infections. This is due to some obvious indicators like temperature and visual evidence. Many physicians will look at the charted medical history and ask about any changes. However, they normally do not ask probing questions or inquire about other family members, potential toxic exposures, or the home history of water damage. Traditional doctors seldom have the time to interact at all beyond the specific reason for the visit. This is problematic if you believe you have been exposed to chemical toxins, carcinogens, toxic mold, heavy metals, and other environmental hazards.
Despite the logic behind identifying and removing the root cause of the disease, most allopathic doctors (Traditional Western) stick to quick diagnostics and habitual medical solutions. There are a few physicians that take special attention and time to discuss the patient’s medical situation and history. These physicians and practitioners are only a small minority of physicians.
Whenever patients see numerous doctor specialties, polypharmacy becomes problematic. This is common as we grow older. Polypharmacy occurs when physicians prescribe medicine to treat specific symptoms without careful consideration of whether the patient has been prescribed other medicines by other physicians. It can be time consuming to determine whether drug interactions may be an issue. As a result, several pharmaceuticals are then “stacked” on top of other medicines or supplements where adverse drug reactions may take place. Sometimes, the effects are life threatening. The responsibility to prevent polypharmacy is incumbent on both the physicians and the patients. A physician can add a medication to make the patient’s symptom feel better; however, it could make the patient’s situation worse.
While chronic illnesses can be severe and limit a person’s ability to enjoy life and provide for themselves and family, the process of diagnosing and treating most illnesses can take months to years in addition to producing behavior changes. Given the high likelihood that mold can cause severe illness, testing and or treating for mold is fast and inexpensive. Once ruled out, the patient journey continues as planned. However, early identification of mold present in or on the patient or their home can radically change the trajectory of the patient’s path.
You can purchase tests from ImmunoLytics HERE. Some physicians will conduct a tap test on a patient’s clothing. Positive mold tests from clothing indicate a strong probability that there is systemic mold in the home or car.
The use of gentle, antimicrobial cleaners in your cleaning regimen in areas where mold can become a problem is recommended for the mold sensitive. Remedy Multi-purpose Spray and Remedy Laundry Detergent are helpful additions that help keep mold at bay.