Medical conditions that do not add up to a legitimate disease continue to puzzle both patients and doctors. Patients are often adamant about the seriousness and the validity of their conditions. However, without much evidence to support their claims – especially when test results turn up to be within normal limits – doctors cannot reach solid conclusions for treatments. Here are five conditions that continue to seek medical and scientific explanation to validate their status.

1. Adrenal fatigue

There is no concrete evidence that makes adrenal fatigue a valid medical diagnosis.
There is no concrete evidence that makes adrenal fatigue a valid medical diagnosis.

Exhaustion, body aches, insomnia and eye bags have been associated with adrenal fatigue; though, there is no concrete evidence to support the connection.

"Symptoms of fatigue, body aches, trouble sleeping, indigestion, and nervousness are nonspecific and could be due to a variety of other diseases, including sleep disorders, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and thyroid disease," Marilyn Tan, MD, an endocrinologist with Stanford Health Care and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine told Health.

First termed in 1998, adrenal fatigue is said to have come about from the body’s response to overwhelming and continuous levels of stress – such as when a death happens or being seriously ill. The adrenal glands are unable to continue releasing cortisol for self-regulation, leading to fatigue.

However, many doctors do not agree that adrenal fatigue is a valid medical diagnosis. Instead, they think that pursuing this lead will cause other serious conditions to be overlooked.

"To attribute all symptoms to a single diagnosis of 'adrenal fatigue' risks missing the detection of other treatable underlying diseases,” added Dr Tan.

2. Chronic Lyme disease

Also known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, chronic Lyme disease (CLD) displays symptoms such as continued fatigue, joint pains, muscle aches and sleep-impairment.

The term is commonly used to describe the 20% of patients who continue experiencing symptoms of the actual Lyme disease after being treated with a two to four weeks antibiotics course. Medical experts theorise that the lingering symptoms could be due to residual damage to tissues and the immune system that occurred during the infection.

However, doctors also diagnose patients with CLD even when they were not infected with the tick-borne illness in the first place. These patients also display similar symptoms.

Not an accepted medical diagnosis, these CLD sufferers are prescribed prolonged antibiotics to help alleviate symptoms. However, studies have shown that there can be serious complications and patients do not necessarily do better in the long run as compared to those given a placebo.

The doctors who offer such treatments "don’t typically follow the most commonly recommended treatments and the evidence-based guidelines,” said Christina Nelson, MD, medical epidemiologist for the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Most general practitioners and infectious disease physicians would not provide this type of care.”

3. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity

The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recognise electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) as a real medical condition. Sufferers of EHS claim that being exposed to electromagnetic radiation generated by electrical appliances, cell phones and Wi-Fi routers result in dermatological issues, like redness or burning sensations, and other symptoms, such as fatigue, heart palpitations and nausea.

Dr Harriet A. Hall, a medical advisor and author at Quackwatch believes that, “they are indeed suffering, and blaming their symptoms on EHS only distracts from seeking the real cause of their symptoms and helping them.”

Other medical professionals like Dr Jonathan Pham from Imperial College, London feels that there are other factors at play, “these include other environmental factors like noise and lighting as well as psychological factors such as stress and mental illness.”

The pain and symptoms should otherwise be regarded as serious until research finds proof to validate the condition.

4. Multiple chemical sensitivity

While many chemicals are proven to be detrimental to health – such as tobacco smoke and asbestos – patients believe they suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or idiopathic environmental intolerance due to low exposure levels of chemicals found in everyday products.

Patients claim that they suffer a wide range of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, itching, chest pain, changes in heart rhythm, breathing problems, skin rash, diarrhoea, memory problems and mood changes. With a wide range of symptoms, there is also a wide spectrum of triggers, such as being exposed to tobacco smoke, auto exhaust, perfume, insecticide, new carpet and chlorine.

The symptoms and discomfort are real, though it may not necessarily be due to the MCS ‘disease’. Doctors believe that allergies and extreme sensitivities are at play, with depression and anxiety also being contributing factors.

“Multiple chemical sensitivity is under debate in the medical community at this time,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Some healthcare providers question whether it exists. Others acknowledge it as a medical disorder triggered by exposures to chemicals in the environment.”

5. Wilson’s syndrome

Wilson’s syndrome is named after Dr E. Denis Wilson himself. Photo credit:
Wilson’s syndrome is named after Dr E. Denis Wilson himself. Photo credit:

Individuals with normal thyroid levels, yet experience nonspecific signs and symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, insomnia and headaches, are often labelled with Wilson’s temperature syndrome. However, upon thyroid testing, their thyroid hormone levels are normal.

Wilson’s syndrome is also associated with low body temperature and considered to be a mild form of hypothyroidism, which Dr E. Denis Wilson – who named the syndrome after himself – claims can respond to a thyroid hormone preparation called triiodothyronine (T-3).

However, the American Thyroid Association concluded that, “there's no scientific evidence that T-3 performs better than placebo in people with nonspecific symptoms, such as those described in Wilson's syndrome.”

“The theory proposed to explain this condition is at odds with established facts about thyroid hormone,” it added. MIMS

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