If you have ever experienced changes in your sense of smell, then you know how strange it can feel. It can be uncomfortable for many. Some may experience a loss of smell, which seems to be a major complaint of people with COVID19. Others may experience a heightened sense of smell associated with hyperosmia.
According to the National Institute of Health’s Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in four Americans over 40 report alteration in their sense of smell. This number is even higher in older people, with 32% of those over 80. Also, over 13 million Americans have a measurable sense of smell dysfunction. Hyperosmia is an example of a smell dysfunction.
What Is Hyperosmia?
Hyperosmia causes a heightened sense of smell, part of the olfactory system. Hyperosmia gives you the ability to smell odors other people can’t smell. To some, this may seem like a superpower. For most, it causes discomfort and can make some people feel sick. For example, you visit a friend who has a thing for scented candles. As they talk about how the candle brings back happy memories, you try to fight off a migraine or nausea. Although rare, some people with hyperosmia note feeling depressed and anxious.
How to Know If You Have It
Some people naturally have a better, or worse, ability to smell than others. With hyperosmia, your increased sense of smell is a new experience. It may seem like suddenly you notice yourself smelling odors you wouldn’t have in the past, or scents seem much more potent to you than they do to others. Hyperosmia is persistent and doesn’t seem like it is getting better with time. Other noticeable changes associated with hyperosmia include an enhanced sense of taste since it too is part of the olfactory system.
Knowing the difference between olfactory disorders can prevent confusion and help you explain your symptoms to your doctor. Anosmia is the loss of smell, hyposmia is a reduced ability to smell, parosmia is an inability to identify smells correctly, and phantosmia is smelling something that is not there. As for taste disorders, ageusia is the loss of the five tastes, including sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (savory).
Hypogeusia is the reduced ability to taste, dysgeusia is a distorted taste perception, and phantogeusia is when you have a metallic or salty taste for no reason. It’s important to note that some smells can trigger an emotional reaction with physical symptoms. Osmophobia is an example of how your memory connects to smells and produces symptoms. If it is a bad memory, you may experience adverse symptoms.
Who Gets Hyperosmia?
Hyperosmia can occur for no reason at all and can affect anyone. However, most cases of hyperosmia are related to an underlying condition, like the ones below:
- Genetically Inclined: Some people experience hyperosmia simply because it is in their genetics. Hyperosmia is handed down genetically throughout generations.
- Pregnant Women: Many women struggle with morning sickness in the early stages of pregnancy. A heightened smell induces nausea, vomiting, headaches, and more.
- People with Neurological Disorders: Specific neurological disorders have symptoms of hyperosmia, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy.
- People with Lyme Disease: One study tested a group of people with Lyme disease to see if they also have hyperosmia. Results showed half of all participants did have hyperosmia. Hyperosmia is a symptom of a more significant problem, like adrenal dysfunction, which can eventually lead to autoimmune disorders like Lyme disease.
Connection Between Lyme Disease and Hyperosmia
Lyme disease affects the central nervous system, which includes inflammation around the brain and spinal cord. Specific parts of the brain are more affected than others, like the ones that control your sense of smell. There are indirect connections between hyperosmia and Lyme disease. For example, a symptom of Lyme disease is headaches. Several neurological dysfunctions are associated with Lyme disease, including hormonal imbalances and negative mental health symptoms.
Medications to Treat This Condition
Some doctors prescribe medicine to Lyme disease patients to help treat their daily symptoms. Some medications also cause hyperosmia. Ask your doctor questions to learn more about Lyme and to see if drugs cause your changes in smell. Below are a few of over one hundred medicinal examples that alter your taste, smell, or both:
- Antibiotics: azithromycin, amoxicillin, and ciprofloxacin. Antibiotics are often the first line of treatment for Lyme disease.
- Anti-inflammatories: ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, and tramadol are prescribed to control inflammation caused by Lyme disease.
- Antihistamines: Loratadine and prednisone may be prescribed to treat specific allergy-like symptoms associated with Lyme disease.
- Antidepressants: anti-anxiety medications such as venlafaxine, alprazolam, sertraline, fluoxetine, clonazepam, and amitriptyline are prescribed to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Vitamins like potassium and vitamin D are recommended for Lyme disease patients since they can rob the body of essential nutrients.
- Central nervous system stimulants like amphetamines are prescribed to restore dysfunction caused by Lyme disease.
Because many people with Lyme’s disease also have secondary conditions, you must look at prescriptions for those. Several types of medication affect taste and smell, including:
- Blood pressure
- Thyroid disorder
- Gastrointestinal issues
Treatment for Hyperosmia and Lyme Disease
The key to treating hyperosmia is to figure out its cause. If the reason is associated with Lyme disease, the focus should be on eliminating Lyme bacteria from your bloodstream. Seeking treatment from a Lyme-literate doctor is recommended, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Many Lyme disease test results are inaccurate due to ineffective tests.
Lyme-literate doctors use advanced methods to analyze the disorder that general practitioners do not use. You don’t have to ignore Lyme disease symptoms like altered senses anymore. Some types of treatments combined with antibiotics help improve your outcomes. Reach out for help to get a treatment plan to help you enjoy your senses again. Call a Lyme-literate specialist today.