Phantosmia: odors in the nose that are not there

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Phantosmia is a strange condition of the sense of smell. One then smells odors that are not actually there. These are often odors that are not very pleasant. Where does this condition come from and, above all, what can be done about it?

What is Phantosmia?

People with Phantosmia smell or have an odor in their nose that is not actually there. Usually they are unpleasant odors and this odor lingers in the nose for a number of days/weeks. However, the smell is not present all day, but comes in bursts. It may also involve tasting the scent. It can occur after smelling the odor that then lingers, but there are also other causes. Usually one can also smell other odors that are there, but the odor in the nose remains present in the background. Phantosmia is a variant of Anosmia . Anosmia is a condition in which one completely loses the sense of smell. This may be a congenital defect or occur later in life.

Causes of Phantosmia

There are various causes for Phantosmia. It can occur after an accident resulting in brain damage . Due to the damage, the brain can send wrong signals to the sense of smell, causing you to smell an odor that is not there. One can also get Phantosmia after or before a cold . An allergy, respiratory infection or a nutrient deficiency can also cause an odor in the nose. Psychological problems are also mentioned as a cause, but it is not clear which problems can cause the condition. The brain can usually be identified as the cause of these and other problems with the sense of smell. It can be compared to ears that ‘ringing’, which is also because the brain transmits wrong signals to the hearing organ.

Consequences of Phantosmia

Phantosmia is an unpleasant condition because the odor in the nose is usually unpleasant. One may feel nauseous when the smell sets in and lingers. Since the smell usually lingers for several days, or even weeks, at a time, it can become quite irritating. It has no serious consequences, except that one may catch a cold a few days/weeks after the occurrence of the Phantosmia.

Can Phantosmia be treated?

It is not clear whether there is a treatment for Phantosmia. It is often a condition caused by the brain and cannot be solved with a remedy. Not much is known about disorders of the olfactory organ, so people with this condition cannot simply visit a doctor for a solution. The bad odor that lingers in the nose for a while goes away on its own, but usually returns several times a year. You may be able to try to treat the mucous membrane in the nose with a saline solution or a nasal spray. The odor may go away for a while, but it is not a permanent solution to the problem.