Abnormal Smell


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By Medicover Hospitals / 20 Feb 2021
Home | symptoms | abnormal-smell
  • Abnormal smell medical word used by doctors is Phantosmia. Phantosmia is a condition that causes you to smell smells that are not actually present. When this happens, it is sometimes referred to as an olfactory hallucination. The types of smells that people smell vary from person to person. Some may notice the smell in only one nostril, while others have it in both. The smell can come and go, or it can be constant.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is Abnormal Smell?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a doctor?
    6. FAQ's

    What is Abnormal Smell?

    • Phantosmia is a disorder related to a person's smell. It happens when a person can smell something that is not there.
    • The odor may appear on only one side of the nose, or it may affect both nostrils.
    • Phantosmia is relatively rare. It represents about 10 to 20% of disorders related to smell. In most cases, the phantosmia is not of concern and will go away on its own.
    • However, phantosmia can be a sign of a serious underlying condition, so people should always discuss this symptom with their doctor.
    • Some phantom smells are pleasant, but people with phantosmia more often describe unpleasant, foul-smelling, or disgusting smells. These may include:
      • burnt toast
      • burnt rubber
      • cigarette smoke
      • a chemical or metallic smell
      • a spoiled or rotten smell
      • an outdated or moldy smell
    • People are often unable to identify the specific smell, or it may be a smell they have never encountered before.
    • Phantosmia can be overwhelming and interfere with everyday life. It can influence a person's sense of taste, leading to decreased appetite and weight loss.


  • People can experience ghost odors for many reasons. They may be associated with the nostril, while the situation is referred to as peripheral phantosmia, or the brain, that's known as central phantosmia.
  • Problems with the nostril or nasal cavity are the most common reasons for odor-associated disorders, including phantosmia. These include:
    • nasal polyps
    • tumors
    • chronic sinus infections
    • hay fever or allergic rhinitis
    • non-allergic rhinitis
  • Otherwise, ghost odors may arise due to problems with the way the brain understands odors. These include:
    • epilepsy or seizures
    • head injury
    • migraines, where phantosmia can be an aura
    • parkinson's disease
    • schizophrenia
    • depression
    • a stroke
    • certain medications
  • When phantosmia is associated with the mind or central nervous system, the odors are frequently more persistent. They can be noticed during the day and at night, and both nostrils, rather than just one experience the same odor.
  • Causes related to the nose include:
    • common colds
    • allergies
    • sinus infections
    • irritation from smoking or poor air quality
    • nasal polyps
  • Other common causes of phantosmia include:
    • upper respiratory infections
    • dental problems
    • migraines
    • exposure to neurotoxins (substances that are toxic to the nervous system, such as lead or mercury)
    • radiation treatment for throat or brain cancer

    Phantosmia versus parosmia:

  • Phantosmia is frequently pressured with parosmia, that's a distorted feel of scent.
  • People with parosmia are smelling real-life smells, however, they're distorted. For example, the smell of flowers could trigger a chemical smell. Many people with parosmia also describe distorted odors as unpleasant.
  • Parosmia can be unsettling, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Severe parosmia can be debilitating. People with severe parosmia may find it difficult to cope with their symptoms, even temporarily.
  • Are smell disorders serious?

  • Like all your senses, your sense of smell plays an important role in your life. In a few cases, odors from uncommon reasserts could make you appear to be you've got phantosmia. These include smells of:
    • dirty air vents in your home or office
    • new laundry detergent
    • new bedding, especially a new mattress
    • new cosmetics, body wash, shampoo, or other personal care products
  • Problems with your chemical senses can be a sign of other serious health conditions. An odor disorder may be an early signal of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or more than one sclerosis. It can also be linked to other medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and malnutrition. If you have a smell disorder, talk to your doctor.
  • Diagnosis:

  • To diagnose phantosmia, a physician will first carry out a physical examination of the person's head and neck. They can ask about any other symptoms and perform tests to check the individual's other senses. You will be asked about the types of odors you smell, whether you smell them in one or both nostrils, and how long odors tend to linger.
  • If your doctor suspects a cause related to your nose, he or she may perform an endoscopy, which involves using a small camera called an endoscope to better see the inside of your nasal cavity.
  • A physician might also additionally order an endoscopy or rhinoscopy to observe the nasal cavity and search for issues that could reason phantosmia. They can also request specific and comprehensive tests or refer people to a specialist.
  • MRIs, Imaging tests, along with CT scans and EEGs are from time to time used to discover abnormalities within the nasal cavity, brain, or nervous system.
  • Treatment:

  • Phantosmia because of a cold, sinus infection, or respiration infection must depart on its own as soon as the illness clears. Treatment for phantosmia varies depending on the underlying cause of the phantom odor. Phantosmia may be a signal of a severe underlying condition, so people need to discuss this symptom with their physician.
  • Some ghost odors are pleasant, but people with phantosmia more often describe unpleasant, foul, or disgusting odors. These may include:
    • burnt toast
    • burning rubber
    • cigarette smoke
    • a chemical or metallic odor
    • a rotten or spoiled smell
    • a musty or musty odor
  • People often cannot identify the specific odor, or it may be an odor that they have never encountered before.
  • People with persistent sinusitis or different long-lasting nasal infection can speak to a physician about the best remedy options. Treatment of underlying conditions should also address phantom odor.
  • If symptoms persist for more than a few days, doctors may first recommend simple treatments, such as using a saline solution to flush the nasal passages. This can help dislodge anything that is trapped in your nasal passages and relieve symptoms.
  • Certain medications can help people with prolonged phantosmia manage their symptoms:
    • anesthetic to numb nerve cells
    • medicines to narrow the blood vessels in the nose
    • steroid creams or sprays
  • In a few cases, medical doctors may also turn to oral medicines or maybe surgical treatment to deal with phantosmia. They don't always recommend surgery as it can only work in some cases and surgery carries its own set of risks.
  • When to visit a Doctor?

  • The abnormal odor can be caused by colds, allergies, or sinus infections that usually go away on their own after a few days. If this doesn't happen, besides, the lack of smell can sometimes be treated, relying upon the reason. Your doctor may give you an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection or remove anything that is blocking your nasal passage. But in some cases, the loss of smell can be permanent because phantosmia can be caused by a head injury or an upper respiratory infection. It can also be caused by temporal lobe seizures, sinus inflammation, brain tumors, and Parkinson's disease.
  • See your physician in case you experience signs and symptoms of phantosmia so that the physician can rule out any critical underlying problems that can be causing the problem from detecting the odor.
  • Frequently Asked Questions:

  • There is no specific treatment for smell disorders. If the cause is due to medication, adjusting, or changing the medication may relieve symptoms. If an underlying disease causes the smell disorder when that disease is resolved or treated, the sense of smell usually returns. Surgery can remove nasal polyps.
  • It constitutes about 10 to 20 percent of disorders related to the sense of smell. In maximum cases, phantosmia isn't a reason for the issue and could go away on its own. However, phantosmia may be a sign of a critical underlying condition, so people have to usually talk about this symptom with their physician.
  • Smell problems have many causes, such as illnesses including upper respiratory infection, injury, polyps withinside the nasal cavities, sinus infections, hormonal disturbances, dental problems, exposure to certain chemical substances including insecticides and solvents, some medications, and radiation due to the head and neck. cancers.
  • Citations:

  • Abnormal Smell and Taste Perception in Pregnant Women -