Your nose can sniff out bad health

Your nose knows more than you think about the state of your health. Among the illnesses it can sniff out are dementia, diabetes and haemophilia.

A decreased sense of smell, or the inability to distinguish between odours may be an early sign of the onset of Alzheimer’s or a range of other diseases that attack the brain and nervous system.

If you can’t sniff things out the way you used to, speak to your doctor about the possibility that you may have Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, or even dementia.

A less insidious reason for losing your sense of smell may be because you have polyps growing in your nose. These can block odours from being detected by the right nasal cells. If they are bothersome, minor surgery can remove them.

Phantom smells can be a sign that you have a brain disorder. If you can smell something that others can’t, be it pleasant or not, it may mean you are developing epilepsy, a brain tumour or even a condition similar to Parkinson’s disease.

The smell may come and go or be permanent. Sometimes, it is detected through just one nostril instead of both.

If you have lost your sense of taste as well as smell, it could be that you have a sinus infection.

Sinusitis can also make foods taste bland or unpleasant, as can having a blocked nose due to a cold or flu.

Dry air can draw moisture away from your sinuses so that they crack and leave you open to a bacterial infection. Nosebleeds can be a sign that you need to use a humidifier to stop your airways from drying up.

Typified by a red nose, in men, rosacea can worsen over time, leading to the skin condition rhinophyma.

A serious case can alter the shape of a nose and make it hard to breathe through the nostrils.

If your mucous is persistently black, it may indicate that you have a fungal infection in your respiratory system, or some other serious illness.

Temporary dark mucous merely means that you are breathing in heavy pollution, smoke or even dirt. Dark yellow or green mucous signals a respiratory infection that may need to be treated with antibiotics if it lasts more than a couple of weeks.

Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia
This mouthful of a disease is a rare genetic disorder that weakens the blood vessels in your nose, causing it to bleed. Tell-tale signs are waking up to blood spots on your pillow or face.

Left untreated, the disease could cause dangerous blood clots that may lead to stroke, or lodge in your lungs.

Nosebleeds are sometimes also an indication of haemophilia, allergies, overuse of nasal sprays or vigorous nose-picking.

If you suspect you have diabetes, one of the symptoms is a decreased sense of smell. It is not known why this occurs, but there is speculation that high-blood sugar levels may damage either the endocrine system or nerves, blood vessels and cells that are used for smelling.

Have you ever lost your sense of smell? If so, did you discover why? Do you regularly sniff odours that are not there?

Related articles:
Dementia link to smell
Why do we sneeze?
Online symptom checker

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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