Parosmia: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 6/1/2021

Parosmia is the term that refers to the disruption of the normal sense of smell. Parosmia can cause a loss of sensitivity to smell, meaning that an affected person may not be able to detect scents. It can also cause a distortion of the sense of smell, meaning that certain items may take on a disagreeable or unpleasant smell or a distorted odor. Symptoms of parosmia therefore include a constant sense of a revolting or unpleasant odor or difficulty noticing certain scents. The symptoms may be worse around foods, leading to nausea and loss of appetite.

Parosmia is usually caused by damage to the olfactory sensory neurons that are found in the nose. This damage can occur from an infection such as a cold or viral infection (including COVID-19). Damage to the parts of the brain that process smell sensations can also cause parosmia. Toxins, chemicals, neurologic conditions, and certain medications may also disrupt or distort the sense of smell. The symptoms of parosmia may vary in severity.

Other causes of parosmia


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.