Is MS Keeping Me from Smelling the Roses?

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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For years, my wife and I have disagreed about smells. She smells something and I don’t. I tell her that her nose is too sensitive. She tells me to get out the air freshener.

Over the 37 years since my MS diagnosis, this conversation has happened thousands of times. But I never thought that my MS might be the reason for this dichotomy of smell sensitivity. Then I came across a story on this website about how people with MS can have a reduced sense of smell, and how that reduction can begin early in the progression of their disease. Maybe that’s why the “smell meter” attached to my wife’s nose reads differently from mine.

Smell may be a hidden MS symptom

Our noses are connected to “smell meters” in our brains by the olfactory nerve. But unlike the nerves in our spine, the olfactory nerve, for the most part, isn’t covered with myelin. And lesions aren’t seen on it, either. That’s led some researchers to believe that the olfactory nerve isn’t involved with MS. However, other researchers think there may be a connection. The MS News Today article reports that “data from some [studies] indicate a 20% to 40% olfactory impairment in MS, mostly in patients with relapsing-remitting MS but also among those with primary progressive MS.”

What does this mean?

These doctors think that smell sensitivity, or the lack of it, may be able to be used as another indication that someone’s MS is progressing; less smell means more advanced disease. In our house, however, my wife will probably put it in simpler terms: It’s my smell meter that’s busted, not hers.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Rose avatar


Yes, I agree with you. My sniffer is off. I use to smell everything, even as a child, my mother would complain I had to smell everything.
We are still discovering more everyday about this disease and we both know that it takes its role differently in everyone. Best of luck and happy smelling.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

A Rose commenting on smelling the roses. I love it. :-).

Thanks for dropping a note.


Lois Flanigan avatar

Lois Flanigan

I am just the opposite, I have such an acute sense of smell I hate it! I have been told that even that could be related to MS. I have a couple of cats and can tell which one is lying next to me, not by opening my eyes, but by their body odor. I can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi (no joke) just by smelling the glasses. Drives me (and my husband I am afraid) a little crazy, because I am constantly cleaning due to something I smell.

Lori Hickey avatar

Lori Hickey

I too have an acute sense of smell although I have MS.

Jill P avatar

Jill P

Exactly the same as me. I'm known as radar nose. My smell functions in hyper-mode. I instantly smell everything that's going on. This can be unpleasant and overwhelming.
Additionally, I can taste every nuance in any dish and am famous in my family for knowing what's in a recipe.

Angela avatar


Wow, I always wondered if there was some sort of link.
Many yrs ago, I got well and truely dressed down because the tubing with cyanide solution was leaking into the water bath and then into the lab. I could not smell it, but apparently everyone else could. Naturally, this is a health issue for us all. While being told to empty and diagnose the problem, I asked what it smells like..almonds. I had no idea almonds had a smell. They only have a taste for me.
While standing outside a hash cafe in Amsterdam on a tour os, everyone else was sniffing deeply and commenting. Once again..’what smell?’..
Then I visited a friend who had just pain medicated. She was so embarrassed..but again..’what smell?’.
I always wondered if it was attached to my blood group or something(a positive-recessive negative Ddccee)


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