Sensory Hyperreactivity and Chemical Sensitivity, Tilia
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Latest update: 2011-02-27

Mechanisms of increased airway sensitivity to occupational chemicals and odors

Authors: Millqvist E

Journal: Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Apr;8(2):135-9

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Airway symptoms induced by chemicals and odors are common problems that are also reported after contact with substances normally regarded as nontoxic. This article reviews current findings and opinions regarding mechanisms of increased airway sensitivity to occupational chemicals and odors.
RECENT FINDINGS: Individuals exposed to organic solvents during work had more nasal irritation and lower threshold to pyridine odor compared with a nonexposed control group. Six percentage of a general population in Sweden had pronounced airway chemical sensitivity and augmented capsaicin cough sensitivity, known to reflect the sensory nerve reactivity of the airways. The cough sensitivity was associated with changed levels of nerve growth factor in nasal lavage and such patients had longstanding symptoms influencing their working capacity. Positron emission tomography activation studies with several different odorants showed in patients with odor-associated symptoms an odorant-related increase in activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and cuneus-precuneus in comparison with a control group.
SUMMARY: In subgroups of individuals with airway symptoms induced by chemicals and odors, there seems to be a sustainable physiological mechanism behind the reactions. An increased vulnerability to stress cannot be neglected as a confounding factor in some sensitive individuals.

PMID: 18317021 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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