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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Strange smells

05/14/2008

Question:

I sometime smell very strong odors that no one else can smell. Off and on I have smelled a very strong smoked cigarett odor when no one was smoking. Just tonight I suddenly smelled a very dusty odor that my room mate could not smell. Is there a medical reason for this or what?

Answer:

An altered sense of smell can be from several different causes. Commonly this may be due to chronic sinus disease. Old, dried mucus in the nose may become colonized with bacteria, fungus, or mold and cause foul odors. Also, changes in smell may be due to a viral infection that has injured the nerves for smell. This may or may not improve. Finally, rarely, but it is possible, that a tumor in the brain may cause alterations in the sense of smell. A thorough ENT evaluation of the nose and sinuses including a smell test, blood work, and a CT or MRI of the brain and sinuses is warranted.

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Response by:

Lee   Zimmer, MD Lee Zimmer, MD
Assistant Professor or Otolaryngology, Director of Endoscopic Cranial Base Center
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati