Phantom Smelling? Is This Normal?

Lounge By kellertur Updated 16 Mar 2010 , 10:19pm by SecretAgentCakeBaker

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kellertur Posted 14 Mar 2010 , 12:54am
post #1 of 9

Is it unusual to smell things that clearly aren't there? I have migraines, but lately I've been smelling things that are not there... Example: I'll point out some "smell" but no one else smells it...and it's weird stuff...sometimes lemons, but mostly unpleasant...I remember once it was lobster.

Anyway, I've heard of olfactory halucinations before, but is it possible I just have a bionic nose (as my husband has joked) ??

Thanks icon_smile.gif

8 replies
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JanH Posted 14 Mar 2010 , 7:24am
post #2 of 9

What you're describing is called phantosmia, and it can be a symptom of an impending migraine:


Edited for typo.

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Texas_Rose Posted 14 Mar 2010 , 7:28am
post #3 of 9

You're not pregnant, are you? When I was pregnant my sense of smell increased to the point that it was hard to go out in a crowded place sometimes.

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SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 14 Mar 2010 , 12:34pm
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You should go see a doctor. This can be an indication of other problems, not just migraines. I would suggest seeing your primary care physician, as well as an ophthalmologist. Ultimately, I would say to see a neuro-ophthalmologist, but you'll probably need a referral.

Are you having other symptoms as well? Do you hear a whooshing sound in your head ever, especially if you bend over? Do you have any visual disturbances of any kind. Do you have unusual pains anywhere in your body that are generally unexplained? Dizziness, tiredness, nausea, depression, tingling in extremities, forgetfulness? These are things that may seem minor, but the doctor should know about it. Also, pay attention to where the migraines are and how the pain feels, what you were doing when it started, what kind of pain it is, etc (not all headaches feel the same.) If you can, keeping a log will be helpful for the doctor.

I am dealing with a neurological condition called (IH) intracranial hypertension. Before I was first diagnosed, my primary care doc at the time thought I was a hypochondriac and he told me that I had mild multiple sclerosis. He did not tell me to go for any tests or give any treatment (because he was 'humoring' me by giving me that 'diagnosis'), so I went to the library and started getting books about MS. A few weeks later I had an appointment with the eye doctor, just for a regular check. I brought one of the books and was reading it in the waiting room. The eye doc saw me reading the book and asked me about it. Then he did a very thorough eye exam, and at the end announced to me that he thought I had intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri is the old name.) He sent me to see a neurologist who confirmed the diagnosis. I had started to lose my peripheral vision and was not able to drive at night anymore. If I had not received treatment, I could have lost my vision completely.

With treatment, the IH went away for about 10 years, but I (and my ophthalmologist) are pretty sure I have it again. I get to see the neuro-ophthalmologist this coming Tuesday to get diagnosed again and start treatment. With IH, not everyone has the same symptoms, which makes it more difficult for the docs to diagnose. For me, I get the phantom smells, whooshing sound, headaches, weird pains, nausea, eye problems, exhaustion, tingling in my hands. Sometimes I even feel like I am pregnant (but I'm not.)

Sadly, I think my almost 8-year old daughter might have this too.

Anyway, I'm only mentioning this to say that not all migraines are just a headache, especially when other symptoms are present. Sometimes though, a headache is just a headache, so it's best to have it checked out either way.

Hopefully this is just a weird side effect from migraines, but please get it checked out just to be safe.

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kellertur Posted 14 Mar 2010 , 1:14pm
post #5 of 9

No Texas...I'm not pregnant. icon_smile.gif Although, my daughter would love that...

I do have severe migraines... but the phantom smelling is almost constant. Sometimes I smell burnt rubber...or oil? Not pleasant, right? Why can't it be flowers? I had 2 skin biopsies last week, but I'm thinking it's unrelated...I should get results back in a few days.

Thanks for the info.

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Loucinda Posted 14 Mar 2010 , 2:57pm
post #6 of 9

I don't have any suggestions, but just wanted you to know I hope things get figured out - that can't be pleasant for you. icon_sad.gif

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mightydragon663 Posted 16 Mar 2010 , 6:45pm
post #7 of 9

I have had migraines since I was 7 and I almost always smell old cigarette smoke or ashtry sometimes days before I get the migraine. (No, I don't smoke and am never around it either. icon_biggrin.gif ) I agree with Barbaranne though, you should get it checked out by your doctor.

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kellertur Posted 16 Mar 2010 , 9:38pm
post #8 of 9

I did speak to my doctor. When my biopsy results came back I mentioned this and she now believes I'm having temporal lobe seizures (mostly in my sleep, also called temporal lobe epilepsy)...something I never heard of before. So she's sending me for a brain scan to confirm this. It's not like regular epilepsy, not life threatening. These seizures aren't really "noticable". She arrived at this conclusion when I told her I sometimes find myself staring into space, unable to move, and I have a history of sleepwalking (which doesn't always mean our actually get out of bed...but we act out our dreams), a frontal head injury as a child, migraines and phantom smelling. I had NO idea these things were even related. icon_confused.gif

Thank you...otherwise I may not have thought this worth mentioning to my doctor.

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SecretAgentCakeBaker Posted 16 Mar 2010 , 10:19pm
post #9 of 9

I'm so glad to hear you got a diagnosis and it is not life threatening. I will pray for you that your brain scans go well.

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