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Unlocking a Mystery Ailment

Environmental intolerance genetically linked to panic disorder

Environmental intolerance, also called multiple chemical sensitivity or 20th-century disease, has been a mystery to doctors and sufferers alike. But, researchers from the University of Toronto believe they've found a genetic link between environmental intolerance and panic disorder, which may provide clues to the root of the ailment, says this Canadian Press article from Toronto's C-Health.

Victims of the ailment react to chemicals in the environment. The triggers can range from hairspray to household cleaners. And the symptoms of a reaction include lightheadedness, feeling out of breath, nausea, weakness and chest tightness, says the article.

The ailment is similar to an allergy, but with one big difference, says the article. Someone with an allergy will react to an allergic trigger whether they know it is there or not. People who suffer from environmental intolerance don't always react to triggers if they don't know that the triggers are present.

"This is a condition clearly distinct from hay fever, clearly distinct from asthma, clearly distinct from food allergies such as peanuts," says study author Karen Binkley, who believes there is a cognitive aspect to the disease.

Binkley studied 22 people, half of whom had environmental intolerance. She found that 41 percent of those with environmental intolerance had similar genetic material to people with panic disorders, compared to only 9 percent of the control group.

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