Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work with several professionals that have dedicated a significant portion of their lives and careers to helping patients with severe mold illness. The breadth and scope of this often-undiagnosed disease is alarming, and I encounter severely ill mold patients all of the time. It is impossible to not have empathy for these people, because they are truly suffering. Whether they are plagued with chronic sinusitis, headaches, cognitive dysfunction, ongoing pain, or a mysterious combination of symptoms and illnesses, the result is often devastation. Add to that the stress that being constantly sick puts on their health, careers, finances, and relationships, and the human cost can be enormous. Mold patients often report missing out on many of life’s most rewarding events—family vacations, get-togethers, sporting events, etc.—for years or even decades.
The economic cost of treating mold-related illness is also worth noting. Healthcare is expensive! Chasing an elusive disease is a significantly expensive endeavor, for both the patients and the health care system. Physician visits, pharmaceuticals, imaging and blood diagnostics, and other treatments often becomes prohibitively expensive. Patients struggle with high deductibles, missed work, and other healthcare expenses, like out-of-pocket treatments by naturopaths and holistic practitioners that are not covered by insurance. Not to mention the potential expense of remediation to remove the root cause of the toxic burden, or of moving to a safe place, neither is a choice that mold patients have if they want to get better.
On a more positive note, I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Dennis and other professionals that are fully vested in helping patients suffering from environmental illness. The combined treatments that are required for these patients to get well are many times challenging and expensive; however, in the end, it is hard to put a price on good health and getting your life back. For some patients, getting better takes months, but for others, the road to better health takes years. The earlier an accurate diagnosis is made, the better the patient’s chance of finding an economically feasible solution.
Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that only a few patients experience the quick identification and removal of mold as the source of their problem in a timely manner. In fact, physicians who treat environmental illness report that new patients have seen as many as 5-7 different physicians prior to seeing them. Dr. Dennis has stated that many of his mold patients have had several sinus surgeries prior to seeing him. Surgery, antibiotics, and steroids are standard treatments for chronic sinusitis that often get repeated. Antibiotics often even create an environment that is fertile for fungus, producing a cycle of sinusitis and sickness.
“A 1998 Mayo clinic study reported that 96% of patients with chronic sinusitis studied tested positively for fungus.”
Because the systemic symptoms of mold sensitivity often overlap with symptoms of many chronic diseases, a misdiagnosis is not uncommon. Mold sickness is often a diagnosis of exclusion. Patients may go through several diagnoses and treatments prior to finding a physician that recognizes and treats the mold.
Taking Mold off the Table
Dr. Dennis and other practitioners have developed protocol to identify mold as a contributing pathogen, or to eliminate it as a cause early in their practice.
Most medical histories given by physicians do not include questions about mold or water damage to their home. Sinus and respiratory symptoms, their home environment, and a connection to other systemic symptoms indicative of an immune response are not specifically investigated. Dr. Don Dennis (ENT) is a physician who, “takes mold off the table” early. When a patient comes to see Dr. Dennis, they most often present with sinusitis. During the first phases of treatment, Dr. Dennis does the following:
- He takes a patient history which identifies facts and clues about exposure to mold. A questionnaire is given to assess sinus symptoms, home and work environments, and systemic symptoms. The patient’s answers provide clues to direct Dr. Dennis’s examination. A simple 5 minute survey can be taken by anyone online at www.sinusitiswellness.com.
- He takes a “Tap Test” to find mold spores on the patient’s clothes and swabs their nasal passages. For the “Tap Test,” a Petri dish is tapped against the clothes the patients are wearing in the office. Both samples are sent to a lab for analysis. A significant mold presence on either test is significant circumstantial evidence that there is mold in the patient’s living environment. The patient is often asked to do similar testing in their living environments. (Mold cultures that form on the Petri dishes are sometimes overwhelming to see.)
- He takes a blood sample for analysis on their body’s antibody responses. This test provides evidence of the presence of food and mold allergies.
I asked Dr. Dennis if he could provide me with some data about his patients and the results of these tests. We decided that reviewing the introductory testing of 75 new patients (a blind sample) would provide significant information about his patient population seeking relief from mold. Even though the data is skewed, it is incredibly informative.
- 97 % suffered from sinus issues;
- 43% also suffered from respiratory issues;
- 70% identified potential mold issues in their homes;
- 48 % had greater than 10 systemic symptoms, indicating mold as an issue.
Mold “Tap Test” Data:
- 93 % had dangerous levels of mold on their clothes (>10 colonies);
- 63% had mycotoxin-producing mold in their results.
Blood Test Data:
- 19% had high levels of antibodies, indicating significant mold exposure and mold allergies;
- 69% had moderate levels of mold antibodies, also suggesting mold sensitivity.
While neither of these tests is scientifically conclusive, together, they provide evidence of mold exposure. Patients with positive results are provided a treatment plan with practices that are relatively inexpensive and are often very effective. This data also proves that patients and physicians can identify if mold might be the root cause of their sickness early; often avoiding a lengthy sickness and a chain of specialists, diagnostics and medicines. This is worth a great deal to patients and their families. It also reduces health care expenditures overall.
As part of their treatment plan, these patients are given a plan to actively remove mold from their sinuses, clothes, linens, surfaces and air in their indoor environments. The following infographic, “7 Steps to Relief from Mold in Your Home,” illustrates the use of EC3 products to “Combat Mold Exposure at Every Source” to provide a path for mold sufferers to finally “Feel Good Again.