Some Diagnoses Are Just Junk Medicine

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Popular medical diagnoses seem to go in cycles — at some point, lots of people will say they have gluten intolerance or chronic Lyme disease — but these seem to have more to do with newspaper headlines than they do with any real medical condition. Ross Pomeroy, writing for Real Clear Science give some examples of such conditions in his essay entitled "Six 'Common' Medical Conditions That Don't Actually Exist." In the interest of public education, we review his list here.

  • Candidiasis Hypersensitivity. Candida albicans is a common yeast that probably lives on everyone. If your immune system is out of whack, you can get an overgrowth which can be dealt with by the proper medication. But for the rest of us, it's not an issue.
  • Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Yes, celiac disease is a real and problematic disorder that must be dealt with by adhering to a strict avoidance of gluten. And yes, it's possible to have an allergy to proteins found in some grains. Otherwise, there's no real evidence for a non-celiac, non-allergic gluten sensitivity, and just feeling better when avoiding those grains doesn't prove otherwise.
  • Morgellons. This is a relatively new "condition" in which supposed sufferers have skin lesions with colored threads sprouting from them. When the CDC investigated, they concluded that the sores were due to scratching and the threads came from the sufferers' clothing.
  • Wilson's Thyroid Syndrome. This is also called Wilson's temperature syndrome. Its diagnosis relies on having an oral temperature below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and a host of other possible symptoms such as depression, headaches, low sex drive, unhealthy nails (?), etc. Supposedly this condition can be treated with the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3). However, this in itself can be dangerous and lead to extreme hyperthyroidism.
  • Adrenal Fatigue. Your poor, tired adrenal glands just can't keep up with the pace of modern life — they're stressed out and can't produce their normal complement of hormones. There's no evidence to support this — if your adrenals are really malfunctioning, it's not because they're tired and you'd best consult an endocrinologist to find out what's going on.
  • Chronic Lyme Disease. As we recently explained here, this is a non-existent condition. Yes, Lyme disease really does exist — it's carried by ticks — but appropriate antibiotic treatment can master it. What many think of as chronic Lyme disease may well be a result of other, untreated tick-borne disease.

For more insights into these and other junk diagnoses, take a look through ACSH's Senior Fellow of Biomedical Science Dr. Alex Berezow's Little Black Book of Junk Science.