If you often smell something that doesn't exist, you may be living with phantosmia. According to research by the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 1 in 15 Americans over the age of 40 have it. Fortunately, this condition rarely leads to more serious problems and subsides on its own.
However, since there is a chance that phantosmia is a symptom of a health issue, it's essential to discuss it with your doctor. Let's take a closer look at what phantosmia is and why you may experience it.
Types of Phantosmia Smells
While some people with phantosmia smell pleasant smells, most notice foul smells that bring them discomfort. If you have phantosmia, you may smell cigarette smoke, spoiled milk, rotten food, mold, burning rubber, or burnt toast.
You may also smell something that you simply can't explain or something that you've never smelled in the past. In addition, phantosmia may lead to taste problems as smell and taste have a close correlation.
Causes of Phantosmia
There are a number of reasons you may experience phantosmia. It's likely that your condition is associated with your nose and a disorder such as nasal polyps, allergic rhinitis, or tumors. Phantosmia may also arise as a result of brain-related issues like seizures, epilepsy, migraines, schizophrenia, and Parkinson's disease. In the event phantosmia is linked to a nose issue, you may smell a stronger scent in one nostril.
If you believe you may have phantosmia, you can expect a doctor to thoroughly examine your head and neck. They may also ask you about your symptoms and conduct a test like a rhinoscopy or endoscopy.
This type of test will allow them to take a closer look into your nose and detect any issues that may be present. A doctor may also order an imaging test like a CT scan or MRI scan to search for abnormalities in your nose or brain.
The ideal treatment for phantosmia depends on its cause. If you have persistent nasal inflammation or chronic sinusitis, a doctor will focus on treating it. A doctor may also recommend a saline solution to rinse out your nasal passages and get rid of anything that may be trapped in them.
Medications like topical steroid sprays, decongestants to narrow blood vessels, and nerve numbing aesthetic may also be necessary to treat long-lasting phantosmia. Oral drugs or surgery may be performed to resolve the most serious cases.