Chemical intolerance in primary care settings: Prevalence, comorbidity, and outcomes

David A Katerndahl, Iris R. Bell, Ray Palmer, Claudia S. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

PURPOSE This study extends previous community-based studies on the prevalence and clinical characteristics of chemical intolerance in a sample of primary care clinic patients. We evaluated comorbid medical and psychiatric disorders, functional status, and rates of health care use. METHODS A total of 400 patients were recruited from 2 family medicine clinic waiting rooms in San Antonio, Texas. Patients completed the validated Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) to assess chemical intolerance; the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) screen for possible psychiatric disorders; the Dartmouth-Northern New England Primary Care Cooperative Information Project (Dartmouth COOP) charts for functional status; and the Healthcare Utilization Questionnaire. RESULTS Overall, 20.3% of the sample met criteria for chemical intolerance. The chemically intolerant group reported significantly higher rates of comorbid allergies and more often met screening criteria for possible major depressive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and alcohol abuse disorder, as well as somatization disorder. The total number of possible mental disorders was correlated with chemical intolerance scores (P <.001). Controlling for demographics, patients with chemical intolerance were significantly more likely to have poorer functional status, with trends toward increased medical service use when compared with non-chemically intolerant patients. After controlling for comorbid psychiatric conditions, the groups differed significantly only regarding limitations of social activities. CONCLUSIONS Chemical intolerance occurs in 1 of 5 primary care patients yet is rarely diagnosed by busy practitioners. Psychiatric comorbidities contribute to functional limitations and increased health care use. Chemical intolerance offers an etiologic explanation. Symptoms may resolve or improve with the avoidance of salient chemical, dietary (including caffeine and alcohol), and drug triggers. Given greater medication intolerances in chemical intolerance, primary care clinicians could use the QEESI to identify patients for appropriate triage to comprehensive nonpharmacologic care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-365
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2012

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Comorbidity
Primary Health Care
Psychiatry
Environmental Exposure
Delivery of Health Care
Mental Disorders
Equipment and Supplies
Somatoform Disorders
New England
Triage
Panic Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder
Caffeine
Anxiety Disorders
Alcoholism
Hypersensitivity
Cross-Sectional Studies
Alcohols
Medicine
Demography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice

Cite this

Chemical intolerance in primary care settings : Prevalence, comorbidity, and outcomes. / Katerndahl, David A; Bell, Iris R.; Palmer, Ray; Miller, Claudia S.

In: Annals of Family Medicine, Vol. 10, No. 4, 07.2012, p. 357-365.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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N2 - PURPOSE This study extends previous community-based studies on the prevalence and clinical characteristics of chemical intolerance in a sample of primary care clinic patients. We evaluated comorbid medical and psychiatric disorders, functional status, and rates of health care use. METHODS A total of 400 patients were recruited from 2 family medicine clinic waiting rooms in San Antonio, Texas. Patients completed the validated Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) to assess chemical intolerance; the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) screen for possible psychiatric disorders; the Dartmouth-Northern New England Primary Care Cooperative Information Project (Dartmouth COOP) charts for functional status; and the Healthcare Utilization Questionnaire. RESULTS Overall, 20.3% of the sample met criteria for chemical intolerance. The chemically intolerant group reported significantly higher rates of comorbid allergies and more often met screening criteria for possible major depressive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and alcohol abuse disorder, as well as somatization disorder. The total number of possible mental disorders was correlated with chemical intolerance scores (P <.001). Controlling for demographics, patients with chemical intolerance were significantly more likely to have poorer functional status, with trends toward increased medical service use when compared with non-chemically intolerant patients. After controlling for comorbid psychiatric conditions, the groups differed significantly only regarding limitations of social activities. CONCLUSIONS Chemical intolerance occurs in 1 of 5 primary care patients yet is rarely diagnosed by busy practitioners. Psychiatric comorbidities contribute to functional limitations and increased health care use. Chemical intolerance offers an etiologic explanation. Symptoms may resolve or improve with the avoidance of salient chemical, dietary (including caffeine and alcohol), and drug triggers. Given greater medication intolerances in chemical intolerance, primary care clinicians could use the QEESI to identify patients for appropriate triage to comprehensive nonpharmacologic care.

AB - PURPOSE This study extends previous community-based studies on the prevalence and clinical characteristics of chemical intolerance in a sample of primary care clinic patients. We evaluated comorbid medical and psychiatric disorders, functional status, and rates of health care use. METHODS A total of 400 patients were recruited from 2 family medicine clinic waiting rooms in San Antonio, Texas. Patients completed the validated Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) to assess chemical intolerance; the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) screen for possible psychiatric disorders; the Dartmouth-Northern New England Primary Care Cooperative Information Project (Dartmouth COOP) charts for functional status; and the Healthcare Utilization Questionnaire. RESULTS Overall, 20.3% of the sample met criteria for chemical intolerance. The chemically intolerant group reported significantly higher rates of comorbid allergies and more often met screening criteria for possible major depressive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and alcohol abuse disorder, as well as somatization disorder. The total number of possible mental disorders was correlated with chemical intolerance scores (P <.001). Controlling for demographics, patients with chemical intolerance were significantly more likely to have poorer functional status, with trends toward increased medical service use when compared with non-chemically intolerant patients. After controlling for comorbid psychiatric conditions, the groups differed significantly only regarding limitations of social activities. CONCLUSIONS Chemical intolerance occurs in 1 of 5 primary care patients yet is rarely diagnosed by busy practitioners. Psychiatric comorbidities contribute to functional limitations and increased health care use. Chemical intolerance offers an etiologic explanation. Symptoms may resolve or improve with the avoidance of salient chemical, dietary (including caffeine and alcohol), and drug triggers. Given greater medication intolerances in chemical intolerance, primary care clinicians could use the QEESI to identify patients for appropriate triage to comprehensive nonpharmacologic care.

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