Mutation in Nav 1.7 causes high olfactory sensitivity

Eur J Pain. 2018 Nov;22(10):1767-1773. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1272. Epub 2018 Jul 11.


Mutations in the sodium-channel Nav 1.7, encoded by the gene SCN9A, are known to cause pain disorders. In particular, gain-of-function missense mutations in Nav 1.7 have been shown to be causal in primary erythromelalgia. We present a patient with erythromelalgia, pain attacks and hyperosmia with a mutation within the sodium-channel gene SCN9A. A 50-year-old woman presented with burning pain in both feet and abdominal pain attacks developed over the course of 10 years. Furthermore, this patient experienced a hypersensitivity for odours. Clinical investigation as well as serum/cerebrospinal fluid laboratory findings and electrophysiological testing were unremarkable. Olfactory testing showed high olfactory acuity for all screened modalities and good intranasal sensitivity. Furthermore, quantitative sensory testing within the trigeminal area revealed very low thresholds for thermal, tactile and pain detection. In addition, quantitative sensory testing at the lower legs showed hyperalgesia and, as the disease progresses, thermal sensory function loss. Skin biopsies of the proximal and distal lower limbs revealed reduced epidermal nerve fibre density indicating small fibre neuropathy. Genetic analysis of the SCN9A gene demonstrated a heterozygous mutation in Exon 20 - c.3734A>G (p.N1245S). Treatment with clinically available sodium-channel inhibitors did not result in significant pain relief. Local application of the sodium-channel blocker ambroxol however, reduced pain intensity. Continuous odour exposure stabilised mood and induced a short-term pain relief. This clinical note illustrates the course of middle-age onset erythromelalgia and points to clinical findings related to a likely pathogenic missense mutation affecting the sodium-channel Nav 1.7. SIGNIFICANCE: This case report illustrates the course of middle-age onset erythromelalgia with presumed gain-of-function in olfactory and pain sensation associated with a Nav1.7 channel mutation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Erythromelalgia / genetics*
  • Erythromelalgia / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation, Missense / genetics*
  • NAV1.7 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics*
  • Pain / genetics
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Smell / genetics*


  • NAV1.7 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • SCN9A protein, human