What Are The Causes Of Parosmia? Symptoms & Treatment Options

Parosmia is an olfactory malfunction typified by the incapacity of the brain to recognize an odor’s actual smell correctly. What happens is that the natural odor gets translated in to a nasty and disagreeable smell, characteristically – charred, decaying, putrid, fecal, or chemical smells. Thus, in parosmic patients pleasant odors are also perceived as offensive and disgusting.

Symptoms Of Parosmia

A constant nasty odor is the chief complaint of one suffering from parosmia. The smell makes him feel ill. The odor of any substance seems like offensive fecal or rotten odor.

One suffering from parosmia cannot recognize the actual odor of a particular substance. Consequently, he has trouble eating food; and even pleasant aromas appear foul and disagreeable.

Those diagnosed with parosmia are distressed in their day-to-day life since they cannot differentiate between aromas of various food products.

Common Causes Of Parosmia

There are numerous diseases that are associated with parosmia.

  • The most frequently seen causes for parosmia are upper respiratory tract infections. Upper respiratory tract infections can result in parosmia because of impairment to the olfactory receptor neurons.
  • Exposure to harmful solvents is another significant etiological factor for parosmia and more damaging to the olfactory receptor neurons. When these neurons get damaged there occurs an inability to rightly programme a message representing a specific smell, and this consequently sends a wrong signal to the odor processing centre in the brain, the olfactory bulb. Consequently, the signal activates a different trigger, i.e. an altered odor, than the actual odor is perceived, and the individual fails to coordinate the input and output smells. Impairment to the olfactory receptor neurons causes a peripheral fault in the pathway; there are also cases wherein impairment to the processing centre in the brain can trigger warped erroneous smells.
  • Trauma to the head causes dysfunctions which can trigger parasomia. In humans, the olfactory bulb is situated on the inferior aspect of the brain. Trauma and injury to this section of the brain alters how information is processed in various ways. If that section of the brain which infers and processes these input signals gets damaged, then a warped output occurs. This causes parosmia.
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy is an important cause, but this is only temporary; the onset of parosmia was a seizure and it lasts for 7 to 15 days.
  • Parosmia is also seen in Parkinson’s disease; though not ever-present, and though the exact pathway is uncertain, an insufficiency of dopamine is known to cause the parosmia.

Treatment Options For Parosmia

Unfortunately, there’s no specific cure for parosmia. Luckily, the symptom is known to diminish over a period of time. In some patients it may take years to decrease. Although there are many cases where the individual stays afflicted for years at a time, this is certainly not in a majority of the cases.

Many health care providers recommend L-Dopa to manage the condition successfully. You need to confer with your physician and understand your cause for the parosmia and based on that the treatment regimen will be started.

Surgical intervention is also advocated in a few cases. Some people who are bothered by their condition may opt to destroy the olfactory bulb with surgery. Talk to your health care provider to assess the benefits as well as risks.