Phantom smells more often haunt women

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 07.06.2019

All iLive content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses ([1], [2], etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please select it and press Ctrl + Enter.

02 March 2019, 09:00

According to statistics, women often have the feeling of smells, which actually do not exist: men are concerned about this problem less often.

Some people notice that they sometimes sense some kind of foreign smell — for example, urine or burnt porridge — although they are surprised to find that there is no source of such an aroma in sight. In fact, this happens almost everywhere. Medical specialists periodically encounter this problem in patients, calling it an idiopathic sense of phantom odors. But in medicine, accurate statistics on this issue does not exist. Such a problem was started by Swedish researchers. They managed to establish that the population of Sweden, belonging to the age range from sixty to ninety years, feels phantom scents in almost 5% of cases.

American experts picked up the initiative and conducted a similar calculation in their own country. It was found that out of more than seven thousand participants in the experiment, 6.5% of people felt non-existent aromas from time to time, most of them were female (approximately 2/3).

Olfactory discrepancies in medicine are called the term “phantosmia”, and in some patients such false sensations are indeed signs of pathology. In this case we are talking about unpleasant odors - sulfur, decomposition, rotten eggs, bitterness. The condition may be aggravated by an appropriate reaction: increased saliva secretion, aversion to food, and cognitive impairment.

How to explain the wrong olfactory response of the body is unknown. Scientists have suggested that sensory receptors in the nasal cavity, which smell, for some reason, begin to function too actively. Researchers notice that false aromas are mainly concerned with people who have ever received head injuries or have had other serious health problems - for example, infectious diseases, benign or malignant tumor processes, hemorrhages. Some experts are inclined to believe that in this matter the culprit must be sought in the hormonal sphere.

It rarely happens that people turn to a doctor with such a problem. However, in many situations, the appearance of false smells requires additional diagnostics with subsequent treatment prescriptions. There are cases when frequent non-existent aromas indicated the presence of mental disorders and even neoplastic brain diseases in a patient.

Most likely, scientists still have to conduct more than one study on this topic. Experts predict that it is possible that in the near future, physicians will even be able to diagnose the nature of smells that a patient feels.

Information published on page https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/2696525


You are reporting a typo in the following text:
Simply click the "Send typo report" button to complete the report. You can also include a comment.