Phantom smells, or phantosmia, is a medical condition wherein a person smells something that isn’t actually there.
Sometimes also referred to as olfactory hallucination, phantom smells vary from person-to-person but are usually unpleasant, such as cigarette smoke, moldy, metallic, chemical, or burnt toast smells.
This condition is relatively uncommon and is usually not a cause of concern as it goes away on its own. However, it can be a sign of another underlying disease.
What causes phantom smells?
Phantom smells may be caused by problems with the nose such as:
- Allergic and non-allergic rhinitis
- Chronic sinus infections
- Nasal polyps
They can also be traced back to brain disorders such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Head trauma
How is phantom smell diagnosed?
Phantom smell is usually diagnosed through a physical examination on your head and neck, as well as a series of tests including endoscopy or rhinoscopy, wherein the doctor looks into your nasal cavity and check for any anatomical abnormalities that may be causing the phantom smells. You may also need to undergo CT scans, MRI scans, and EEG scans to determine further abnormalities in the brain or the nervous system.
How is phantom smell treated?
It depends largely on what is causing the phantom smell. Treating the underlying conditions first should also address the phantom smell.
For people suffering from chronic phantom smells, doctors may prescribe:
- Saline solution to rinse out the nasal passages
- Steroid sprays or creams
- Drugs to constrict blood vessels in the nose
- Anesthesia to numb nerve cells
Head over to Medical News Today’s article here for more information on phantom smells and how to deal with them.