Electrodermal Screening

Electrodermal screening is a diagnostic method used in alternative medicine. By measuring the skin's electrical resistance, electrodermal screening is said to detect energy imbalances along meridians (invisible lines of energy flow in traditional Chinese medicine).

According to proponents, electrodermal screening may help to detect and treat illnesses such as allergies, organ weakness, food intolerances, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

During the screening, a person typically holds a probe in one hand, while a second probe touches another part of the body. A tiny electrical current (which cannot be detected by the person being tested) is sent through the circuit and a reading is made on a galvanometer between 0 and 100. 

Readings can be taken at different places on the skin, corresponding with acupuncture points, to determine if there is an imbalance in a person's energy which may signal illness.  In addition, a potential allergenic substance may be placed in a holder on the circuit -- a higher reading on the galvanometer suggests a greater sensitivity to the substance, according to proponents.

A person can also be tested for different types of treatment. Samples of various remedies (such as supplements) may be placed in a holder as the probe is touched to the affected area. 

There is currently a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of electrodermal therapy for any health purpose. 

The available research includes a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2003. Researchers, led by Dr. George Lewith from the University of Southampton, compared electrodermal testing to skin probe testing, a conventional method for detecting allergies. Thirty participants were enrolled in the study, including fifteen who had tested positive for allergy to either the house dust mite or cat dander using the skin prick test and fifteen who had tested negative.

Three examiners independently tested each participant in order to address concerns that test results can vary greatly among different examiners (critics contend that examiners may unconsciously apply greater pressure over certain acupuncture points, based on their expectations).

The study found that the examiners could not correctly identify the participants with predetermined allergies. Furthermore, no single operator was more reliable at detecting allergies than another, and no participants were consistently given a correct diagnosis by the three examiners.

This study suggests that electrodermal testing is not effective in diagnosing allergies to cat dander and the house dust mite. Due to the small size of the study, larger, well-designed studies are needed to further assess the effectiveness of electrodermal testing.

Using Electrodermal Screening for Health

Given the lack of scientific support for electrodermal screening, it cannot currently be recommended for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. If you're interested in trying it, make sure to consult your physician first. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying a conventional medical diagnosis and standard care can have serious consequences.

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Article Sources
  • Lewith GT, Kenyon JN, Broomfield J, Prescott P, Goddard J, Holgate ST. Is Electrodermal Testing as Effective as Skin Prick Tests for Diagnosing Allergies? a Double Blind, Randomised Block Design Study.BMJ 2001;322:131-4.