Phantosmia is a medical condition that is also referred to as olfactory hallucinations or phantom smell. People affected by phantosmia typically believe that they smell scents, such as smoke, natural gas, dirt, or even flowers, when no such smell is actually present. It is sometimes linked to other medical illnesses, such as seizures, tumors in the brain, or Parkinson’s disease. Treatments are available for this non-life threatening condition, but in most cases, the phantom smell disappears on its own over time.
The main concern with someone experiencing this condition is not the disease itself, but the underlying illness that may be causing the condition. Since people affected by this issue are often diagnosed with some form of ailment affecting the brain, such as tumors, seizures, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, people may best consult a doctor when the symptoms of phantosmia are first noticed. In the alternative, some individuals experience the condition and have no sign of a serious medical illness.
There is one main symptom for phantosmia: a perceived smell that does not really exist. As a result, most people discover they have the disease through communication with others. For example, some affected individuals may ask several different people at different times and places whether they smell a particular odor. If everyone responds that the particular smell is not present, it may be the most evident sign that the condition is present.
For some individuals, phantosmia affects both nostrils, while for others it affects only one nostril. At this time, researchers have figured out ways to numb the area of the nose responsible for smell. As a result, the phantom smell can be temporarily blocked. This procedure is typically done when only one nostril is affected.
A surgeon also may permanently disconnect the sensory parts of the nose, if the condition is extremely bothersome. The result is that smell of any kind will no longer be possible through that nostril. Surgeons will typically not perform this form of surgery on both nostrils since it will permanently end all sense of smell.
There are other treatments that are available as well. For example, nose drops made of saline solution are sometimes prescribed. In addition, sedatives and antidepressants may be recommended. Since there are side effects to some of these medications, it is important to address all concerns with a physician. In addition, an affected individual should weigh the annoyance of the phantom smell against the cost and potentially adverse effects associated with treatment.