Exposure of eyes to perfume: a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment


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Abstract

Environmental perfume exposure can elicit bothersome respiratory symptoms. Symptoms are induced at exposure levels which most people find tolerable, and the mechanisms are unclear. The aim of the study was to investigate patients with eye and respiratory symptoms related to environmental perfume, by exposing the eyes to perfume in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.Twenty-one eczema patients with respiratory symptoms elicited by perfume were compared with 21 healthy volunteers in a sex- and age-matched case–control study. The participants completed a symptom questionnaire, and underwent a double-blind, placebo-controlled exposure to perfume. Of the 42 individuals tested, 10 had more eye symptoms (irritation, itching, and tears) during perfume exposure than during placebo exposures, and eight of these individuals (P = 0.07, Fisher's exact test) belonged to the patient group. A true positive eye reaction to perfume was significantly associated with identification of perfume as an active exposure (P < 0.05). In this study, vapor of perfume elicited irritation in the eyes independently of olfaction, but the relative importance of ocular chemoperception in relation to elicitation of respiratory symptoms from common environmental exposures to perfume remains unclear.Practical ImplicationsWe investigated the hypothesis of an association between respiratory symptoms related to perfume and ocular perfume sensitivity by exposing the eyes to perfume in a double blind, placebo-controlled experiment. Vapors of perfume provoked symptoms in the relevant eye in some patients and healthy control persons, but under our exposure conditions, ocular chemesthesis failed to elicit respiratory symptoms.

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