Research: RUBIN and co-workers,

Listed in Issue 127

Abstract

RUBIN and co-workers, Mobile Phones Research Unit, Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry and Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, King's College London, UK, have reviewed (20 references) treatments for electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

Background

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a poorly understood condition in which patients report symptoms following perceived exposure to weak electromagnetic fields such as those produced by mobile phones or visual display units. Little is known about the aetiology of the condition although experimental data suggest that electromagnetic fields are an unlikely causal agent. The aim of this systematic review was to assess the efficacy of any treatment for people reporting electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

Methodology

12 literature databases were examined to identify relevant studies. Conference proceedings were hand-searched and the reference sections of reviews and other papers were examined. Only clinical trials that compared the efficacy of a potential treatment for electromagnetic hypersensitivity against a control condition were included in the review.

Results

9 controlled clinical trials were identified, examining the effects of cognitive behavioural therapy (4 studies), visual display unit screen filters (2 studies), 'shielding' electromagnetic field emitters (1 study), supplementary antioxidant therapy (1 study) and acupuncture (1 study). The quality of these studies was limited. Nevertheless, their results suggest that cognitive behavioural therapy is more effective than providing no treatment. None of the other therapies have had their efficacy adequately demonstrated.

Conclusion

The evidence base concerning treatment options for electromagnetic hypersensitivity is limited and more research is needed before any definitive clinical recommendations can be made. However, the best evidence currently available suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy is effective.

References

Rubin GJ, Das Munshi J, Wessely S. A systematic review of treatments for electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics 75 (1): 12-18, 2006.

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