Why Does Your Sense of Smell Change With Fibromyalgia?

fibromyalgia sense of smell

Dealing with the fibromyalgia symptoms is not easy. In fact, it can be overwhelming for most. The symptoms of fibromyalgia can be triggered by many factors such as weather, temperature, sound, food, stress etc. Sometimes, the symptoms can also be triggered by a scent or odor.

The Sensitive Syndrome

Fibromyalgia patients are said to be overly sensitive to many things such as noise, light, touch, temperature changes and even smell. Hypersensitivity can happen in many permutations for fibromyalgia patients. While one patient may find both sound and odor to be overwhelming and another may have difficulty in smelling. This explains how the fibromyalgia brain processes things, which is basically erratic and not the same for everyone. This sensory overload can affect the quality of life of most fibro patients.

There are some medications that can help a fibro patient facing hypersensitivity. Discuss this with your doctor when necessary. If the sensitivity becomes so severe, you can even be diagnosed with the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). This condition requires a different form of treatment.

How Smell Affects Your Fibromyalgia

Olfactory refers to the sense of smell. An olfactory impairment is common among people with fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases. Detergents, scented perfumes and cleaning agents can make someone with olfactory impairment feel ill. It can lead to headaches, fatigue and nausea. Food smells can also make fibromyalgia patient feel sick to the point where they loses appetite. It is not uncommon that some patients choose to eliminate certain food from their diet due to its smell, even if the food is healthy for the patient.

The problem of smells among fibro patients has nothing to do with allergies. Thus, you cannot just take antihistamine and get away with it. The problem can become so severe that those who are affected may not feel comfortable to head out to public.

Dealing with Smells with Fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia and are becoming sensitive to smells, there are certain precautions you can take:

  • Try to keep everything unscented at home. This applies to detergents, soaps and cleaning agents. Choose hair sprays and shampoos that are unscented. Scented hair products can linger in your hair for an extended time.
  • Try to keep your home as well ventilated as possible.
  • When cooking, try to experiment with different herbs that do not produce very intense smells.
  • Always keep a mask with you, in your pocket or purse, so that you can easily put it on whenever you encounter a repelling smell.
  • Let your family and friends know about your sensitivity to smell. This is especially so for friends or family members who use strong smelling perfumes.

32 Comments

  • My sense of smell has decreased! I used to be able to smell anything anywhere now I rarely smell anything ever, unless it is very strong. Help ??? None for me as usual.
    Only for “some” that are too sensitive!!! Always half “help” that are common sense for most.

  • I have lost my sense of smell and of taste completely. Once in awhile I get at whiz of smell but not very offten. It is very aggravating because I never know if what I am eating is good or not. I have told my doctor several times about it but he never says anything.

  • I always had a good sense of smell but now it is overwhelming! Things that never use to bother me make me nauseous at times, has also increased my asthma sensitivity in relation to my allergies. I can’t walk down an aisle of scented candles or sprays, forget citronella! It induces an asthma attack if I don’t hold my breath while going down those aisles. I do all I can to avoid them. I’m also noticing increases in my sensitivity to light and sound.

    • You’re the first person whom I have heard of who has the same problems I have. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

    • Yes, I often get that, sometimes it is almost like blood, other times like a metal workshop, sometimes even hot metal. I also get a lot of random tastes in my mouth, usually like paracetamol, not nice. I don’t think that these ransom smells and tastes are hypersensitivity, but are related to something happening internally, like certain tablets cause tastes unrelated to them, as do certain hormonal and vitamin imbalances. But you’re not alone.

    • That sounds like Gerds Acid reflux which is related to Fibro ..Fibro affects all muscles even our heart is a muscle , so it would make sense to have this but not all Fibro pts. have Gerds . There are many who are told they have Fibro and truly they don’t other reason rather depression which can cause discomfort .. Since I started taking Savella I have more calming moments also along with A anti inflammatory I take 2000 mg a day and it does help nothing will ever make it go away but it helps unfortunately I have many complications with mine … Somedays I’m like damn I’m just 54 years old but I just keep plugging thru and again I have a fantastic doctor she is awesome and specializes in autoimmune diseases and disorders … that is most important to have that and a compassionate Dr.

  • My sense of smell is so sensitive but I didn’t know it was due to my Fibro. I can come into my house and will say it smells, and my husband and friends that are in here say, I don’t smell anything.

  • Oh definitely smell affected but another issue I have is skin sensitivity I can’t destinguish hot and cold which well hubby has to double check water when I do water for grandkids or I could burn them
    Not knowing it and water hurts my skin like I can’t got in hot tubs to relax muscles etc pool I have and is my form of exercise I do okay but it’s not pouncing water … I can’t sit down in tubs hurts to bad and hard to get up and I’m
    Not over weight only 110 pounds just hurts so I take showers but the watering hitting my skin actually hurts so I get in and out no like ahhhhh moments .. clothes hurt also so at home I’m in oversized shirts and shorts or lounging pants .. it sucks anybody else have that issue I was told it does happen in Fibro patients but rare and of course I have to be the rare one lol…

    • I have the same i found wearing nighties help my skin feels sore like it’s burnt at times and even after putting blusher on my cheeks hurt from the brush . My sense of smell is really bad at times and makes me angry and severe migraines sausage being the latest banned food in the house. I feel your pain sending gentle hugs

    • This could be me writing this the water from the shower hitting my skin is so painful and some days I could cry because clothes are so uncomfortable and that’s before I mention all the other things that makes your life so hard

  • I def can relate to Angelas post bcuz it sounds like me and the metal/blood taste and other tastes in my mouth like Tanith said! It’s crazy and i hate it! My hubby thinks I’m crazy!

  • I have nearly lost my sense of smell. I can only smell things if they are VERY strong smelling and then I have to get really close to the source. I have always had a keen sense of smell, so I miss this and it does affect the taste of food.

  • My issue is my mouth tasting like I’m inhaling second hand smoke. It just hits out of nowhere.
    There will be sometimes weeks go by with nothing and then suddenly it comes and lasts for weeks.

  • Thank you so much for writing this … I have extreme sensitivity to smells. I worked in a museum and detected a fire in the wall in the copy room long before it became evident to anyone else! Of course they thought I was crazy until they found the source! I cannot stand onions cooking, bus and diesel vechicles, mall smells and lights and I cannot wear touch or breath in rooms full of polyester and in rooms in hardwarestoresanything that off gases.

  • When a doctor diagnosed me with fibro, I thought he was crazy! I went in with sever back pain. So I went to another doc and they found i had several back problems. Thru the years I’ve gone to at least 4 doc, and each time I would ask.. Why does my back feel like someone is holding a hot iron to it, along with the throbbing pain? Every one said..I don’t know? It wasn’t until I read an article on this site, that I knew I wasn’t crazy. Along with that I slowly started having other problems. The 1st was my sense of smell being heightened. I can’t wear any perfumes I used too, and cant use many chemicals etc. Im extremely sensitive to light, and loud noise/music.

    • I am so glad I have read these as I to suffer from fibromyalgia and gor the last two year have suffered with no sense of smell or taste thank you for clearing this up for me

  • I was diagnosed with Fibro 3 years ago, although I’ve had many of the symptoms for about 25 years. The most recent issue has been the change in my sense of smell. I think I’m quite lucky, as the changes have meant nasty smells such as manure I no longer smell at all and things like bleach are not unpleasant, just different. It is artificial “nice smells” such as perfume/aftershave that I find make me feel nauseous and often smell quite unpleasant. Although, strangely I can smell the roses in my garden!

  • For about 10 years now I have been able to smell things that no one else could smell, long before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. There were times when the smell was so intense it would make my eyes burn or make me nauseous, but no one else could smell it. I was beginning to think I was crazy. I was even tested for a seizure disorder that can make you smell burning/smoke. Reading this article makes me think that I am just hypersensitive and maybe not crazy!

  • Because my sense of smell is weird, blamed it all on allergies, after reading this not so sure. My worse issue though is not tasting my food as I used to. Again blaming allergies not so sure now. Does anyone have issues with tasting the flavors in what they cook or eat out?

  • I just started to lose my sense of smell and taste. I thought it was in my head. Thanks for all your comments I now realize it’s my Fibromyalgia. I’m going through a period of high stress and it really angers me when doctors act as if Fibromyalgia is just another simple thing just to throw through the door. I have a sibling who is a physician and I don’t even discuss this with him because once I mentioned it to me and he shrugged it off as if it’s a common cold. Some days the pain is so extreme I can’t even rub my skin in the shower. No one seems to understand.

  • My sense of smell and hearing are way too sensitive. Had no idea ir was related to the fibro. Thank you so much for this article.
    ♥️❤️

  • I can’t go out in the sun light with out sun glasses, my eyes just cant take it. I have lost my sence of taste and my sence of smell has changed, I can’t stand the smell of Popery it makes me nauseous and I get a bad headache from the smell. I cant stand loudness. I also have a problem with my balance, I have to use a cane to keep my balance at times. I also get that metallic taste in my mouth and I have got bad about reflux. This is a terrabul disease. The medication I take helps some but the pain never goes away.

  • I occasionally have skin sensitivity flares where anything that touches my skin is painful. I would wear loose shirts that didn’t touch my thighs because of the burning. Sometimes it is on my arms. I am sensitive to smells to the point of not being able to sleep or waking in the night. Onion smells bring on headaches. Noisy rooms also make me nervous and I need to get out.

  • My sense of taste and smell are off. I have to inhale very deeply to get the scent of things. I can only wear cotton fabrics and showering drains my energy. Fibro changed my life. I just goverm myself accordingly.

  • My sense of smell has heightened over the years (from late 90s to-date) to the point of tasting some things I smell. Tested in a hospital and they came up with a ‘suspected brain tumor’ which I knew was wrong. To date no specialist has confirmed anything and no treatment which is the most frustrating. However, I can’t take most meds either so I deal the best I can by using Wal-Mart Brand menthol sugar-free lozenges to help mask odors or peppermint gum and candies. The stronger the better. That’s the only way I can go out in public but it still takes a toll on my digestive system and bladder. I’ve been researching masks but haven’t found anything convincing as yet. Disappointed that this article didn’t go into more detail because doctors don’t seem to recognize that as a symptom that needs treating. Most immediately prescribe antidepressants which I can’t take. With FMS everything isn’t ‘all in your head.’ I wish they would stop experimenting on us with all types of drugs that cause more problems. Social life suffers and depression becomes primary for many. Not a day passes that I’m not researching, desperately trying to find relief. I had to quit working 16 years ago before I was eligible for retirement and my record keeping from 1982-2005 of all medical records, physician’s notes, etc. was the main thing that helped to show how long I’d been suffering and assisted in approval for disability. I’ve stopped paying doctors and pharmacists for visits and meds that are a waste of time. I’ve stopped trying to explain to people outside of family what I deal with it. My only consolation is that it’s not terminal nor contagious. I no longer deal with intense on-going pain upon realizing that stress exacerbates EVERYTHING related to FMS. Acupuncture is the only thing that has brought relief but it’s not covered as a regular treatment for long periods. To others whom are suffering, think positive and don’t make comparisons to others as we’re all different. Blessings!

    • Lorraine, I have had this thing about as long as you have. I too, went through the doctors/med ‘experiment’. It IS a waste of time and money except for the fact that you find out there is a name for this beast that sits on our back 24/7. Everything listed in the article bothers me and some bothered me before my diagnosis (finally!) in 2005. Barometric pressure dropping sends me into a Flare. Hurts so bad I just want to curl up into a ball in the bed but if I do that, it will only get worse. Being too still (as well as overdoing) will lock me up bad. I’ve learned that I have to ‘mix it up’ every day to stay sane. In the last few months, my skin has become so sensitive I can’t stand concentrated pressure (like tight elastic). And I have to constantly correct my balance (see Mal de Debarquement which is not vertigo) which all doctors I went to for that problem, blamed it on Fibromyalgia – the ‘catch all’ for the unexplained sensory overload. You’re right, it’s not terminal or contagious. There are others who suffer worse, so we need to de-stress, count our blessings, and keep moving. Take care!

  • I have very little to no sense of smell.. haven’t for as long as I can remember…if someone walks past me smothered in perfume it hits me or going down the laundry isle in the shop.. I have had to throw many pans out as I forget that I’ve started to cook something and burned it to an unrecognisable crisp.. I may have been suffering from fibromyalgia for a lot longer than I knew as I had never heard of it till one of my sister’s was diagnosed with it. I also suffer with tinnitus which I’ve also heard is a symptom of fibro…though as it’s in both ears my doctor is not concerned but it’s so annoying, I hear the buzz over everything..

  • I took an anti-viral drug, a new drug that hadn’t been in trials for very long. People have suffered many awful side effects, many Years and years after stopping treatment. My big issue was starting to smell non existent smells, Mainly metallic smell (and taste) and also smoke. In addition, I smell bad smells all the time that no one else does. And so I assumed it was the drug I took. But no one else complained of this issue. However, many noticed that they develped Fibromyalgia or else they had it (like me) and it worsened. So now through this article…i see that the smell issues are a possible symptom of Fibro! Oh, the drug i took was called Harvoni.

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