, Volume 271, Issue 12, pp 3203-3208
Date: 01 Apr 2014

Multiple chemical sensitivity worsens quality of life and cognitive and sensorial features of sense of smell

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Abstract

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is characterized by a loss of tolerance to a variety of environmental chemicals. Multiple chemical sensitivity is frequently triggered by exposure to chemical agents, especially insecticides. The aim of the study was to measure the sense of smell and quality of life in patients with MCS compared to the control group. We studied the sense of smell, both sensitive and sensorial characteristics, in female patients with MCS (n = 58, mean 50.5 ± 8.5 years) and healthy female volunteers without rhinosinusal pathologies (n = 60, mean age 46 ± 10.2 years). Olfactometry (Barcelona Smell Test 24/BAST-24), sinonasal symptoms (visual analogue scale/VAS 0–100 mm), and quality of life (Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory/QEESI) were assessed. Multiple chemical sensitivity patients showed a significant impairment in smell identification (19 ± 12 %; p > 0.05) and forced choice (62 ± 18 %; p > 0.05), but not in smell detection (96 ± 4 %) compared to the control group. Multiple chemical sensitivity patients reported more odours as being intense and irritating and less fresh and pleasant when compared with the control group. Patients scored a high level (40–100) on QEESI questionnaire (symptom severity, chemical intolerances, other intolerances, life impact). In MCS patients, total symptom intensity (VAS/0–700 mm) score was 202 ± 135, while disease severity score was 80 ± 23. The most frequent symptoms were itching and posterior rhinorrhea. Multiple chemical sensitivity patients have an impairment in smell cognitive abilities (odour identification and forced choice, but not for detection) with increased smell hypersensitivity and poor quality of life.

M. Bernal-Sprekelsen and J. Mullol contributed equally to this work with senior responsibilities.