Osmophobia in allodynic migraineurs: cause or consequence of central sensitization?

Neurol Sci. 2015 May;36 Suppl 1:145-7. doi: 10.1007/s10072-015-2141-1.


Migraine is a primary headache characterized by recurrent attacks of head pain associated with nausea or vomit, photophobia, phonophobia and osmophobia. The presence of osmophobia during migraine attacks seems to be a very specific complaint. Cutaneous allodynia (CA) is very common in migraineurs, and it is the most evident clinical manifestation of central sensitization, a mechanism involved in migraine chronification. This study was aimed at identifying the possible correlation between osmophobia and CA in migraineurs. 673 migraineurs were studied (492 episodic, 181 chronic). The prevalence of both CA and osmophobia was higher in chronic than in episodic migraineurs. The association between these two symptoms was significant in chronic migraineurs at Chi square test. The highlighted relationship between CA and osmophobia may be interpreted in different ways: central sensitization induced by recurrent pain stimulation may in parallel induce a distortion of both cutaneous sensitivity (CA) and olfaction (osmophobia); alternatively, the recurrent olfactory stimulation in subjects with a hypersensitivity to olfactory stimuli may co-work with repetitive pain stimulation to induce the central sensitization process.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Sensitization / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders / etiology*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Smell / physiology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Phobia, Specific