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Sensitivity to environmental irritants and quality of life in COPD

Authors Hasseus E, Larsson S, Millqvist E

Published 9 December 2011 Volume 2011:6 Pages 685—691


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Ewa Ternesten-Hasséus, Sven Larsson, Eva Millqvist
Department of Internal Medicine/Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

Abstract: It is a common clinical experience that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) complain of airway symptoms provoked by environmental irritants like chemicals and scents, although few studies can confirm such connections. The aim was to study the prevalence of airway symptoms induced by chemicals and scents in a group of patients with newly diagnosed CPOD and to analyze any relation to illness severity and quality of life. Eighty-one patients with COPD were recruited to the study. By mail they were asked to answer three questionnaires regarding symptoms, quality of life, and social and emotional influence of airway symptoms induced by environmental irritants. A majority (62%) of the COPD patients claimed to be hyperreactive to chemicals and scents. As a group they scored higher on a questionnaire measuring social and emotional influences of such environmental irritants compared to healthy control subjects. Further, high scores were more common among patients with a very severe form of COPD and among patients with regular use of β2-stimulants. High scores were also associated with significantly more airway symptoms and, in some aspects, with impaired quality of life. In conclusion, the results of this study show that airway symptoms induced by environmental irritants are common in patients with COPD and that this increased airway sensitivity follows the impairment of lung capacity. The mechanisms behind this remain unclear.

Keywords: COPD, hyperresponsiveness, environmental irritants, sensory hyperreactivity, quality of life

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