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Sense of Smell Impaired in Fibromyalgia Patients

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Olfactory impairment in patients with the fibromyalgia syndrome and systemic sclerosis.

Abstract:

Patients with autoimmune diseases often present with olfactory impairment. The aim of the study was to assess the olfactory functions of female patients with fibromyalgia (FM) compared with patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and with healthy female controls.

Olfactory functions were assessed in 24 patients with FM, 20 patients with SSc and 21 age-matched healthy controls. The sense of smell was evaluated using the Sniffin’ Sticks test including the three stages of smell: threshold, discrimination, and identification (TDI) of the different odors. The severity of fibromyalgia was assessed using the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (FIQ). The short form 36 (SF-36) questionnaire was also completed in order to seek a relationship between the patients perception of quality of life and the different aspects of the smell sense. Depression was evaluated in both FM and SSc patients utilizing the Beck depression inventory-II (BDI-II) questionnaire.

  • Patients with FM had significantly lower TDI smell scores compared with both SSc patients and healthy controls (p < 0.005,

  • One-Way ANOVA). Hyposmia (defined as TDI scores below 30) were observed in 14 of 24 (42 %) patients with FM compared to 3 of 20 (15 %) patients with SSc and 1 of the healthy controls (4.3 %) (p < 0.02).

  • FM patients had significantly lower thresholds of smell compared to both healthy controls and patients with SSc (p < 0.001), whereas for patients with SSc only the ability to discriminate between odors was impaired (p < 0.006).

  • We could not detect any statistical correlation between smell abilities and clinical manifestation of SSc or the FIQ and SF-36 scores among FM patients. However the correlation between depression, defined by the BDI-II score, and the sense of smell differed between patients with FM and patients with SSc. As only among SSc patients a lower sense of smell correlated with a higher BDI-II score (p = 0.02).

Our findings suggest that there is a decrease in the sense of smell both in FM and SSc patients compared with healthy controls. However these impairments differ between patients group and might represent different mechanisms that affect the sense of smell.

Source: Immunologic Research, November 26, 2014. By H. Amital, N. Agmon-Levin, N. Shoenfeld, Y. Arnson, D. Amital, P. Langevitz, A. Balbir Gurman and Y. Shoenfeld. Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, 52621, Tel Aviv, Israel, hamital@netvision.net.il.

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7 thoughts on “Sense of Smell Impaired in Fibromyalgia Patients”

  1. IanH says:

    ” FM patients had significantly lower thresholds of smell compared to both healthy controls and patients with SSc (p < 0.001), whereas for patients with SSc only the ability to discriminate between odors was impaired (p < 0.006). . . . . Our findings suggest that there is a decrease in the sense of smell both in FM “ How can one have a lower threshold and a decreased sense of smell? We generally find that many people with FM have hypernosmia, those that do seem also to have greater chemical hypersensitivities. I have not come across one person with FM who has poorer acuity of smell. What is going on here??

    1. NancySylvah says:

      This is so strange to me.I had no loss of smell,if anything my senses were heightened.
      I’m very sensitive to noises ex..dogs barking,the clanging sound of dishes being washed, especially over the phone.haha!
      If I take a Tylenol I have to take a nap.
      I use to burn myself in the bathtub, before I learned to gage the temperature,with my feet instead of my hands
      Certain foods that I never liked,I now love.
      And the list goes on…………..

  2. SiSiRN says:

    It was a bit confusing that the threshold was high, yet smell detection low. Having had no sense of usual odors through most of my adult life, I am sensitive to “unusual” smells like a natural gas leak. I have always been confused by this phenomenon in myself. I cannot smell cologne, cookies baking, but can smell these unusual odors. Having chronic sinusitis for over 50 years, I have always attributed by loss of smell to that. As a FM advocate and author on the subject, I do know that sinusitis is often found in FM. So, could it be that we experience sensitivities to weird smells because our brain only interprets noxious odors? Something to consider, but I think research could be applied in areas such as repeat studies on the FM/a test or other research on bio-markers. Then we can investigate these other phenomenons in relationship to FM.

  3. tab2999 says:

    If anything my sense of smell is more stimulated now. Why is money being wasted on such foolishness?

  4. Leffchiropractic says:

    It is clear that many FM patients have hypersensitivity to some smells like walking down the detergent aisle at the grocery store, but often they have difficulties with discriminating pine from rose, lemon from orange, apple from grape. this seems connected to both the problems of sinusitis, and excited nerve and pain pathways in FM patients.
    there was another article about a higher death rate in people who had very poor or no sense of smell. It all seems connected and this looks like a good study. Needs more research. I wonder if you can improve a persons sense of smell, could you improve their Fibromyalgia?

  5. AuntTammie says:

    I have an extremely strong sense of smell and also have multiple chemical sensitivities, as do many, many, many of my online friends with this illness. Plus, a lowered threshold, as the study found, means that we smell things before others do. We may have a harder time differentiating between smells, as the study said, but that in no way means that our overall sense of smell is diminished. The interpretation of this study is seriously flawed!

  6. sumcmen says:

    I, for one, lose my sense of smell to a great degree just prior to going into a fibro-flare. You are onto something for at least a subset of us. Not a waste of research money.

    Susan McMenamy, J.D.

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