Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

BMJ: 324 (7334)

BMJ 2015; 324 doi: (Published 19 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;324:375

Rapid Response:

Non-Diseases or CO Poisoning?

I think it is very telling that more than half the disorders on your
list of "non-diseases" are characterized by common--but also commonly
overlooked--symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including:

Air rage, Anorgasmia, Attention deficit disorder, Brain death,
Diabetes, False memory syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Fibrositis, Food
intolerance, Gulf war syndrome, Hypoglycaemia, Hypotension, Hysteria,
Insomnia, Iron deficiency, Irritable bowel syndrome, Jet lag, Migraine,
Multiple chemical sensitivities, Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue
syndrome, Obesity, Pain, Personality disorder, Post-traumatic stress
disorder, Premenstrual syndrome, Recurrent miscarriage, Restless legs
syndrome, Road rage, Seasonal affective disorder, Short stature, Sick
building syndrome, Social phobia, Somatisation disorders, Stress, Tension
headache, Total allergy syndrome, and Unhappiness.

It is for this list and more that CO poisoning has long been known in
medicine as a Great Imitator (1). I wonder if any of the physicians who
are so quick to dismiss these conditions as non-diseases have ever read
any of the literature linking them with CO or ever tested anyone who
suffers them for this possibility.

Listed below in chronological order by date of their first appearance
are 50 more disorders consistent with CO poisoning that have been reported
in English medical literature since the seminal discovery of neurasthenia
in 1869, which I have shown was most likely caused by CO from gas lighting
(2). You may as well add all 50 to your list of "non-diseases" since that
unfortunately is still how most of them are regarded by physicians and
medical historians (3).

1871 Irritable Heart, aka Da Costa's Syndrome

1892 Hyperaesthesia

1895 Anxiety Neurosis

1904 Phrenasthenia

1906 Psychasthenia

1914 Shell Shock Syndrome

1916 Battle Fatigue, aka Soldier's Heart

1918 War Neurosis

1930 Heat, Cold and Effort Sensitiveness

1930 Allergic Toxemia

1936 Morbid Industrial Fatigue

1938 Neurocirculatory Asthenia, aka Effort Syndrome

1945 Allergic Fatigue

1950 Epidemic Neuromyasthenia, aka Icelandic Disease or Akureyri

1952 Allergy of the Nervous System

1954 Cerebral Allergy

1955 Encephalomyelitis simulating poliomyelitis, aka Royal Free
Hospital Disease

1956 Specific Adaptation Syndrome

1956 Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

1957 Epidemic Postinfectious Neuromyasthenia

1965 Familial Dysautonomia, aka Riley-Day Syndrome

1965 Asthenic Neurosis

1966 Psycho-Vegetative Syndrome

1968 Pseudoneurasthenic Syndrome

1969 Idiopathic Hypogeusia

1973 Ecologic Mental Illness

1974 Epidemic Mass Hysteria

1975 Autonomic Dystonia

1976 Neurasthenic Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome

1978 Mass Psychogenic Illness

1978 Psychic Possession

1978 Chemical Hypersusceptibility

1980 Neurasthenic Neurosis

1982 Familial Chronic Mononucleosis Syndrome

1984 Chronic Active Epstein Barr Virus Syndrome

1984 Chronic Mononucleosis

1985 20th Century Syndrome

1986 Sporadic Postinfectious Neuromyesthenia

1986 Hypersensitivity Syndrome

1987 Darkroom Disease

1988 Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome

1990 Chronic Habitual Hyperventilation Syndrome

1996 Iatrogenic Hypochondriasis

1996 Multi-Organ Dysesthesia

1996 Idiopathic Environmental Intolerances

1997 Chronic Pain and Fatigue Syndrome

1997 Autoimmune Fatigue Syndrome

1998 Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance

1998 Chronic Multisymptom Illness

1999 Multi-Sensory Sensitivity, aka MUSES Syndrome in honor of
Edgar Allan Poe

--Albert Donnay, MHS,
Environmental Health Engineer and Certified CO Analyst


(1) Grace TW, Platt FW. Subacute carbon monoxide poisoning. Another
great imitator. JAMA 1981;246(15):1698-700

(2) Donnay A. Carbon Monoxide as an Unrecognized Cause of
Neurasthenia: A History. In: Penney, D. ed. Carbon Monoxide Toxicity.
2000. Boca Raton FL : CRC Press.

(3) Wessely S, Hotopf M, Sharpe M. Chronic fatigue and its syndromes.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 February 2002
Albert H Donnay
President, MCS Referral & Resources,
508 Westgate Rd, Baltimore MD USA 21229