Loss of smell and Fibromyalgia

Loss of smell with Fibromyalgia is one of the lesser symptoms we talk about. Unlike pain and chronic fatigue, it does not affect everyone, for some they even develop a heightened sense of smell, confusing I know.

"Anosmia is the medical term for loss of the sense of smell. It's usually caused by a nasal condition or brain injury, but some people are born without a sense of smell (congenital anosmia).(Source)

Loss of smell can occur due to problems in the nose or problems in the brain or nervous system.  Using tools like functional MRI, which show the brain's response to pressure and heat stimuli, researchers have been able to measure how people with fibromyalgia process stimuli like pain and pressure. Some key differences have been discovered between fibromyalgia patients and those without the condition.

It is such a complex illness that care is now often divided between:

  • a rheumatologist (a specialist in conditions that affect muscles and joints)
  • a neurologist (a specialist in conditions of the central nervous system)
  • a psychologist (a specialist in mental health and psychological treatments)

Fibromyalgia has numerous symptoms, meaning no single treatment will work for all of them. Treatments that work for some people will not necessarily work for others. Many are treated by Anticonvulsants, the different types of anticonvulsants may act on different receptors in the brain and have different modes of action.   Medics do not know exactly how anticonvulsants work to reduce chronic pain. They may block the flow of pain signals from the central nervous system.

The most commonly used anticonvulsants for fibromyalgia are pregabalin and gabapentin. These are normally used to treat epilepsy (a condition that causes seizures), but research has shown they can improve the pain associated with fibromyalgia in some people.

This would all become logic then when trying to explain how you have lost your sense of smell with Fibromyalgia as it is a neurological condition.

How does the brain recognize, categorize and memorize the huge variety of odours? 

In 1991, Richard Axel and Linda Buck published a groundbreaking paper that shed light on olfactory receptors and how the brain interprets smell. They won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the paper and their independent research

An illustration of how receptors function in the olfactory system
Image courtesy Nobelprize.org

They found that every olfactory receptor cell has only one type of receptor. Each receptor type can detect a small number of related molecules and responds to some with greater intensity than others. Essentially, the researchers discovered that receptor cells are extremely specialized to particular odours.

Axel and Buck also found that each olfactory receptor type sends its electrical impulse to a particular microregion of the olfactory bulb. The microregion, or glomerulus, that receives the information then passes it on to other parts of the brain. The brain interprets the "odorant patterns" produced by activity in the different glomeruli as the smell. There are 2,000 glomeruli in the olfactory bulb -- twice as many microregions as receptor cells -- allowing us to perceive a multitude of smells.

In conclusion, can you have lost your sense of smell due to fibromyalgia?

Yes, you can. It can be a total loss or temporary. Mine goes for months on end and I can smell nothing at all, it affects my eating (well not too much as I am a delicious plus size lassy) and then suddenly I will wake one day and I can smell again, it usually lasts a few days and then suddenly goes. This cycle has continued for the duration of my illness. I still wear perfume as I remember the smells and still spend a fortune on Yankee candles as my sons tell me what they smell like, I love the surprise when I can suddenly smell one. The simple pleasures of life, the excitement of waiting to smell a candle burning.

Have you lost your sense of smell?
Has yours been heightened since Fibromyalgia?

Please get in touch and let me know I welcome the feedback.

 Love and gentle hugs to you all


  1. Hi, I'm a brand new reader-in fact I just subscribed. I wish I could tell you where I found the link to your site but I don't remember. I was on FB, I found it & bookmarked it, by the time I got back to it I'd forgotten. Yes I have fibro, lupus & a few other things. Most of my problems generally are due to the fibro although I'm having some other health problems right now. I enjoyed your blog post & learned something new about fibro. I didn't know about people losing their sense of smell. I have the opposite problem. I can't stand loud sounds & my sense of what's loud is very different from my family's. Loud TV's, radios,even loud voices can bother me. Sounds that are amplified are the worst. After having to leave church several times due to amplified voices & music I just haven't been going lately. When I watch TV I have the volume pretty low I do sit with my husband in the evening when he's watching sports or some weird series. I'm usually not watching & I just try to block the sound out as best I can but sometimes I have to ask him to turn it down. My other senses esp. smell are the same. I can't be near anything with a strong smell. I'm looking forward to reading your blog posts & maybe learning other things I didn't know. The crazy & numerous symptoms are amazing I was diagnosed 17 yrs. ago with vague symptoms for 3 or 4 yrs. before. It has progressed quite a bit since then. I never know what to use to identify so my name is Deb & my email is debharris723@comcast.net

  2. Hi Deb,
    Thank you so much for getting in touch.
    A lady on the facebook page also has a heightened sense of smell, we are not sure what is worse!
    I am exactly the same with noise, it is horrible and makes me feel quite agoraphobic at times.Certain, pitch, volume or repetition and it actually hurts my head like the sound it in my face creating fear. I watched a video of the feeling once I must find it, but I would not wish sensory overload on anyone.
    So glad you found me and I am sure we can lear from each other.
    Huge hug
    Ness x

  3. I, too, have lost my sense of smell, and accompanying sense of taste. It is so depressing as those senses are some of the most pleasurable that we have. I lost my sense of smell shortly after my fibromyalgia began, two years ago. Ironically, I also began having phantosmia, which is smelling odors which don’t exist. I understand that having both are associated with fibromyalgia. It is beginning to seem as if my entire body and systems are affected adversely by this disease. It is so disheartening.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts