Loss of Smell May Be Followed by Smell Distortions

By Reuters Staff

September 09, 2021

(Reuters) - Many people who lose their sense of smell due to COVID-19 eventually regain it, but some survivors later report smell distortions and unexplained smells, a new study found.

Researchers analyzed survey responses from 1,468 individuals who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 between April and September 2020 and had suffered loss of smell and taste at the start of their illness. Early on, about 10% also reported smell distortions, or parosmia, and unexplained smells, or phantosmia.

At an average of six to seven months after becoming ill and first reporting loss of smell, roughly 60% of women and 48% of men had regained less than 80% of their pre-illness smell ability, and rates of smell distortions and imaginary smells had increased, the researchers reported on medRxiv ahead of peer review.

Roughly 47% reported parosmia, saying, for example, "some things now smell like chemicals." About 25% reported phantosmia. "Sometimes I can smell burning but no one else around me can," one respondent reported.

Persistent smell problems were seen more often in survivors with more symptoms overall, "suggesting it may be a key marker of long-COVID," the authors said.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/38SLRhU medRxiv, online September 8, 2021.

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