The human nose is capable of detecting odors at concentrations down to parts per trillion. This sensitivity allows us to detect smells that would otherwise go unnoticed. However, some people experience heightened olfactory perception, which may result in hyperosmia.
Hyperosmia is associated with several diseases, such as epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, and memory disorders. Loss of smell is more common than hyperosmia.
It can occur with no apparent cause, apart from the known diseases that cause this disorder.
People with hyperosmia may experience pronounced discomfort. Exposure to chemical odors such as synthetic fragrances, perfumes, and cleaning products can trigger mild to severe discomfort. Even the smell of some shampoos can be unpleasant.
Exposure to toxic smells and fumes that worsen your hyperosmia can lead to anxiety and depression. Triggers and irritants vary from person to person.
Complications and associated diseases
Hyperosmia is sometimes caused by migraines (between 25 and 50% during their migraine attacks according to studies).
Severe cases can disrupt your life by causing anxiety and depression, especially if you don’t know what smells might be triggering the discomfort.
The causes of hyperosmia
Hyperosmia is associated with several diseases and can trigger a variety of symptoms. Certain diseases associated with this disorder can cause the change in smell, and vice versa. For this reason, it can be difficult to determine whether this disorder is the symptom or the cause.
One of the most common causes of hyperosmia is pregnancy. An early symptom of pregnancy is an increased sense of smell.
Migraines can and are caused by hyperosmia. Increased sensitivity to smells can occur between migraine episodes. Sensitivity to smells can also trigger a migraine or make you more likely to get one.
Lyme disease is another disease associated with hyperosmia. In one study, 50% of Lyme disease patients showed an increased sense of smell.
Recently, researchers have begun to study the links between autoimmune diseases such as Addison’s disease. Hyperosmia is also a symptom of untreated adrenal insufficiency, which is a precursor to Addison’s disease.
Certain neurological conditions have also been linked to hyperosmia, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy. Multiple sclerosis is known to affect senses like taste and smell. Loss of smell is most common in these diseases.
In rare cases, growths such as polyps or tumors may arise intranasally or intracranially. These can affect the olfactory nerve.
Other possible causes include:
- Cushing’s syndrome
- B-12 deficiency
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Certain prescription drugs
The disease (or predisposition) can also be of genetic origin.
Treatment of hyperosmia
If you have hyperosmia, chewing peppermint gum may help until you can part with the smell.
Successful long-term treatment involves identifying and treating the underlying cause of the symptom. Treatment based on the root cause should lessen your hypersensitivity to odors.
If a polyp or tumor is causing hyperosmia, surgical removal may alleviate symptoms. Migraine medications can help treat hyperosmia when migraines are the main cause.
Avoiding specific triggers when possible is valuable. The triggering factors (food, perfumes etc.) are different for each person. Some people are triggered by certain foods.
It’s possible that your prescription medications are the cause. If you have suffered from hyperosmia after starting a new prescription, you should ask your doctor to switch medications.
If you are able to identify and treat the underlying cause, your long-term prognosis looks good. You should be able to fully recover.
Hyperosmia can be difficult to treat when the underlying cause is hard to find. In these cases, symptom management is the best approach until the cause is found.