Hello, I am a migraine sufferer only for past 2 years. I am now 41. I have read a lot about migraines & causes etc, but have never heard of anyone who has ever mentioned "smells or odours" as part of their "migraine experience". I am wondering if anyone has as I am not sure if it is a part of my migraines, or if my smeller has just improved dramatically as I quite smoking 2 yrs ago in September. Several times now in the office that I work in, I have become aware of an odour that triggers migraines for me, the 1st 2 times it has smelled of an actually chemical sprayed in & outside our building, 3rd & 4th time have not been able to determine what it was but I could smell what I refer to as "carpet deodorizer" you know the powder kind you sprinkle on the carpet & leave for short time then vacuum up? now today I am smelling what I can only describe as "propane" - really cannot define it this time.
Your question actually hits on two areas in which smells and odors can be a part of the "Migraine experience." First, as you mentioned, some smells can be Migraine triggers. Those vary from person to person. They can be chemicals, cleaning supplies, even colognes, etc. The "propane" smell that you're experiencing, although nobody else smells it, could be part of the aura phase of a Migraine attack called an olfactory hallucination. During an olfactory hallucination, we very simply smell things that aren't actually there. Since only about 25% of Migraineurs experience the aura phase, and only a small percentage of them experience olfactory hallucinations, it's a phenomena that's not often discussed. See Anatomy of a Migraine for more information about the phases of a Migraine and their symptoms.
Since this is a new Migraine symptom for you, you should discuss it with your doctor at your next appointment, just as you would any new symptom.
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert
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Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert.
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