Changes in Taste, Smell, and Hormones After Brain Injury

Changes in Taste, Smell, and Hormones After Brain Injury
Question: 

My sister fell down some stairs in March 2012. She was rushed by air ambulance to the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. Ever since her fall, she can no longer taste or smell anything. Her hands and feet are always freezing cold. Will her taste or smell ever come back, and why she is so cold all the time?

Answer: 

Loss of taste and smell has been reported to be as high as 25 percent after traumatic brain injury. The loss of taste is generally due to loss of smell. Loss of smell has many possible causes including injury to the nose, nasal passages, sinuses, olfactory nerve, and the brain. The olfactory nerve brings the sensation of smell from your nose to the brain. Since this nerve passes from the nose to the brain, it is at high risk of injury when there is trauma to the head.

There are some medications that can also cause impairments in smell or taste that are commonly prescribed for people with traumatic brain injury, including some antidepressants, seizure medications, antipsychotics, muscle relaxants, and narcotic analgesics. A close evaluation by your sister’s physician is important to make sure there are no reversible causes of loss of taste and smell. If her senses of taste or smell have not returned a year post-injury, it’s unlikely, unfortunately, that they will.

Click here to see BrainLine’s video with Dr. Greenwald on the topic of changes of taste and smell after TBI.

As far as feeling cold all the time, it has become recognized that there can be changes in hormones after traumatic brain injury. A careful assessment of your sister for reasons she feels so cold should include blood tests that measure her hormones (thyroid, cortisone, sex related hormones, and growth hormone).

Please refer to this comprehensive article regarding the treatment of headaches.

More on TBI-related headaches.

Spasticity is another cause of pain more commonly seen after moderate to severe brain injury.

Watch this video with Dr. Greenwald about TBI-related spasticity.

Posted on BrainLine June 9, 2014. Reviewed July 26, 2018.

Comments (205)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Can you smell blood with no signs of blood from nose after a TBI?

I had a concussion and brain bleed after a fall. All I smell is this metallic ( I think) very very strong smell. At times it’s almost unbearable. It makes my whole face hurt. What can I do? Will it ever get better.

Same here. I can smell something strong, right nostril, just out of hospital after brain bleed left side.

How are you now ?

My brother got a TBI in June of 2019, he lost his taste and smell, but can taste candy, and fruit. When fell, he also fractured just about every bone in his face and shattered his left eye socket. Is it possible to have damaged something in his nose and could be fixed?

I had surgery to remove a brain tumor in the left frontal lobe. The tumor was near the optic nerve, but the neurosurgeon never mentioned the olfactory nerve. Now, almost three months after the surgery, I constantly smell a very odd aroma. It started out right after surgery being very mild and usually only in the morning, but it's getting stronger and more unpleasant, and is now ever-present and distracting. I'm concerned it will eventually obliterate all other smells, ruin my sense of taste, and distract me from normal activities. If the brain injury is due to a tumor that was removed, will this get better? It just seems to be getting worse and worse.

I have been injured in my head in different 4 places with about 6 ml each spaces blood frozen. I sought for medical examination after 2 days of my accident and doctor suggested medicines rather than surgery. I am taking 'Levetiracetam' USP 500 mg. I am taking some vitamin capsules and paracetamol also along with medicines. I have lost my original taste and smell, instead I smell and taste the same smell or taste in everything that I eat or smell. Beside I can feel the difference in Sour, Hot(chilly) and salt only. Is it because of medication or because of the injury in sensetivity of taste or smell regarding my nervous system? How can I get back my original taste or smell? Please suggest me.

Very helpful. Thank U

After being told my husband Molested my adult daughter the end of May 1990, I immediately felt numb followed by serious sinus infection that turned into bronchial pneumonia. Experienced delayed response to pain as well. Three weeks later realized I’d completely lost my sense of smell & taste. Over the past 30+ years since then I’ve very slowly regained some sense of my sense of smell & taste. Recently while driving on country roads identified the disgusting odor of skunk. Six months to a year after losing sense of smell & taste I saw skunk roadkill & it smelled sweet & pleasant. Several years later I began using Zinc drops under my tongue. Some time after this I was walking on a beach & recognized the fishy smell of the ocean. I felt elated! Recently my family & I have been eating vegan, gluten-free & no sugar or dairy. It seems like I’m smelling & tasting more.

FYI ~ Have never smoked or drank any kind of alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine or hard liquors. Have been a vegetarian my entire life. The past year or two have eaten gluten-free a good deal, but not until the past couple weeks have gone entirely vegan, gluten-free. Seems these changes are favorable to improving my seemingly dead senses of smell & taste. LOL.

Be of good courage. There is hope. Asking the good Lord to aid in your healing is also a good idea. Have a blessed day!

I had a blackout probably due to a heart arrhythmia I have it was 2 months ago and I cannot taste or smell after the concussion I also have personality changes and depression I just lost a new job I believe because my memory was also affected it’s almost ruined my life everything tastes and smells like Burt plastic. Hopefully the ablation for my heart arrhythmia will help I just feel so not right after this it’s changed my personality and thoughts. I just hope it gets better any ideas on how long this takes

Hello, I'm just wondering how your doing and have you recovered from this or is it still on going?

Hope you well

I had a brain injury and I lost my sense of smell. Is it safe to get a nose job even though I haven’t got my sense of smell back? Or would the surgery affect the process of getting it back?

I fainted in 8/2019, and loss my smell and taste, since then some smells and flavors are really offensive and gross example: I just to loved onions and garlic, and now I hate them!! They smell and taste horrible; I can't stand the smell of perfume, I don't know what to do to fix that. I need
Somebody with answers, helpppp.

I have the same thing going on with me and I’m not sure what it is have you found out?

I can’t smell and taste and even sleep for almost 2 months i dont know whats happening to me. Sometimes, i want to give up and end my life. Does anyone here feels the same way with me?

I know exactly how you feel it’s been 3 weeks and life is not the same for me

Yes after brain injury,i cant taste or smell amythung but 1 smell is always i can feel ..ans u r right smtym i feel so frustrated and feel to end my life

Dear R23,

I'm so sorry that you're going through this and that you don't feel understood. You may think no one has ever experienced what you’re going through and that no one can help you. I'm here to say that you can get through this.

Have you expressed what you’re struggling with to your family or to a friend? If you’re not comfortable talking with them or feel they're unable to understand, please consider reaching out to one of these confidential resources:

National Suicide Crisis Line (24/7)
1-800-273-8255

When you call you will hear a message that you’ve reached the crisis line, there will be brief hold music while you’re connected. Then a skilled, trained crisis worker who works at the Lifeline network crisis center will answer the phone. This person will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share any resources that may be helpful.

Crisis Text Line (NAMI)
Text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to talk via text message.

When you text HOME to 741-741 the first two responses are automated. They tell you that you're being connected with a Crisis Counselor, and invite you to share a bit more. It usually takes less than five minutes to connect you with a Crisis Counselor. When you’ve reached a Crisis Counselor, they’ll introduce themselves, reflect on what you’ve said, and invite you to share at your own pace. You’ll then text back and forth with the Crisis Counselor. You never have to share anything you don’t want to.

I just had an STBI about 5-6 months ago and was hospitalized for over two months... Lost my sense of smell and taste (and I used to LOVE tasting food and describing the flavor and listing the ingredients). But heck, the loss of my sense of smell and taste is nothing due to the fact that I also lost my ability to hear...

November 2019 I met with an accident to brake failure in motor bike
I've been diagnosed with hemorrhagic concussion on temporal side
Since then I've lost my senses of smell and taste and I've problems in remembering I can't remember many things happening recently I can't remember few things happened within two years
Though I'm having a little bit of recovery in taste and smell still its not considerable enough
Will I become normal? Can I get back my senses? Please tell me the fact.l, so many people are giving me false hopes

Did you ever get your smell/taste back? I'm still waiting for mine to come back 8 months after a similar incident :(

Yes i loss taste and smell after big blow to the head from a bike accident. 20 years later i did some research and believe alpha lipoic acid helps - a cheap food supplement - also i once took prozac and that had an amazing effect but didnt like the slurred speech...

I had a brain injury and fractured skull about 6 years ago when I was in highschool. Had blood coming out of my right ear and no recollection of the events. I lost my sense of smell and taste 6 years ago but slowly over the years it has surprisingly gotten better... I went from not being able to taste anything what so ever to slowly regenerating my taste, I think the most notable time my smell increased was probably in the last few years. I would say currently, my smell is about 50-60% and taste is around the same but sometimes higher.. if I had my eyes closed and you put 2 light flavored things in my mouth such as macaroons, I wouldn't really be able to tell the difference. But burgers, chickens, pizza, I can tell the difference. Over the years I've kind of developed my own library of smells based on smells/tastes I remember in the past and also now. I can smell people, I now find comfort in smells such as my girlfriend, I can tell when she puts perfume on and all that. I now find myself craving certain foods compared to 6 years ago, I find enjoyment in certain foods such as chipotle or wanting to eat sushi and all that. There has been studies in the past where people slowly regenerate their senses over time, sometimes decades later. I just want to shed some light of hope for some of you that are out there, I may never check back at this again or maybe I will years later but I hope I can ease your situations a little. Years ago I thought I would never get anything back but slowly and gradually I started getting it back. I have no idea if I've reached my "peak" or maybe I'll still get more, but if it comes back slowly over 6 years I'm sure it can go a bit more.

Thank you for posting Kenny, your story has help me a lot.
I lost my sense of smell and taste over two years ago after being hit by a car. At first I couldn’t smell anything which I found frustrating and also quite frightening.
I can now smell a wet day, however it is a little strange but a wet day nevertheless. I can also smell a sweet smell when I have washed my hands with soap (That is it nothing else).
Hopefully this will continue to get better. However I was getting despondent that my loss of smell wouldn’t improve further. Your story has made me more hopeful.
Good luck with your continued smell recovery.

My name Bill. I fell 30’ off roof onto my head on ashphalt, broke 4 vertebrae, suver hemorrhage, broken ribs , brain shifted 1.5 “ over, have no sense of smell and can only taste chicken fish bran muffin some fruits , I was paralyzed neck down but can walk and drive now this accident happened April 19 2020 it is saverbut I am defining all odds by thinking positive, I go through mood swings and if stopped taking pills and alcohol which is helping, I had a great job but they won’t let me back till I’m 100 percent, my doctor thought I would be able to get back in 4 months but it’s been 8 so far I still have pain in back , left arm , fatigue, left ribs , I don’t let this stop me , I have been training my brain and memory of things I used to do like automotive ,race car driving ,now I’m working on smell and taste so some foods I put on hot sauce it has been working but drink lots of water I use vics vapor rub once in a while under nose not in nose to open nose passages it has been working , I know everyone who has the same issues are going through think positive and be very lucky we are still alive don’t get depressed, exercise and stay healthy god bless all of you

Please Tell me why when I eat a very small cup of ice cream or suck a lollipop my sense of smell goes of the charts and small glass of wine causes me to smell things that is two houses away!

I would bet money that the reason wine helps you is that it’s a relaxant. Facial nerve issues and TBI are always made worse by stress. And most of us with TBI have a baseline of stress and PTSD always. Always good to do more things that bring us joy and let the nerves rest and heal.

I wonder if wine is high in zinc that your smell improves after drinking it?

My cousin met with an accident and blood came out on ear and he doesn't have any taste and smell if he smelled only blood smell is coming he's saying

I lost my sense of smell when i was treating maleria with my head aching

After a fall downstairs in 2006 I lost my smell and taste, I always feel hot and my personality has completely changes. Nearly 15 years on and things have not changed, although I can tell if someone has a smoke or drinks coffee (I smell the same thing for both but it's not the actual smell you smell). I can now tell when my kids fart. I think over the years you adapt a really sweaty man was in a line of people and I could only smell sweaty fried onoins. You do also get chemical, burnt food and spices smells. I suck mints to help with this it happens every so often and can last weeks. Anyone the same??

Within 24 hrs after my husband had a brain hemorrhage and it was a big one I noticed a smell coming from him and 9 years afterwards he still has this same Oder it’s not bad it doesn’t stink it’s kinda chemical I’ve asked doctors if they ever heard of this and what about brain injury/trauma causes this and no one knows I miss the smell of my husband’s pillow clothes of him before his stroke now all his pillow clothes everything smells like the chemicals his body puts off

I had an accident October 12th, and from in between the skull fracture, 2 brain bleeds, brain shift and swell, my smell/ taste went away on November 11th. I was able to get out of the hospital October 21st. Now I’m going through a phase where a smell hits me now. When the smell time hits me, it’s one smell so I can’t just pick something up and it smell differently, it’s one constant smell for a few hours and then it will go away? Has anyone had this also? Or know what it could mean?

I'm suffering a really nasty unexplainable burning smell after a severe head injury 8 weeks ago loss of taste also

I had a TBI 9/2017 and smell something burning off and on through out the week. Almost like something plastic was melting in the dish washer. I smell it often and not just in my house.

Nicola, I am also going through the same ordeal. I had a hermatoma on the frontal lobe after a mountain bike accident. I’ve lost all sense of smell and taste the chemical in my mouth constantly. I suggest like I have go and get blood and allergy tested for everything. Look at all your chemical levels and also a MRI. I’m waiting on results and hoping for the best.

Me too and i a
Hate it..i camt even eat cuz food taste like fabric

I lost my sense of smell in January due to a head trauma, for the last week or so I started smelling what seems to a chemical smell but it never goes away

Did you find out the cure?

I blacked out due to a ventricular heart arrhythmia and hit my left side of my head. I can’t taste or smell for last 2 months everything tastes and smells like a burnt plastic. I’m also very depressed and suicidal a lot. It’s scary and I’ve tried to get help but supposed to get an ablation of heart arrhythmia soon. I hope at least that helps my chest pain and palpitations. I lost my new job as a nurse because I think my memory was affected also it changed me and I really feel trapped. Will I ever be the same person??

I see you posted this in March.. are you still smelling that smell?

I have the same thing. I hit the back of my head on July 30th. Lost my taste and smell. My taste isn’t totally gone but I can’t tell the difference between things like two different flavors of yogurt, and can’t really taste spices. My sense of smell is completely gone but within the last weekend two, I too have this chemical, maybe metal smell that won’t go away.. gives me a headache. Hoping that don’t smell this forever!

Same here, I smell like electrical wire burning..my surgeon told me my brain is sending a wrong signal. I lost my sense of taste & taste 3 days after the vehicular accident, and I regain my sense of taste after 3 weeks but more on salty and sweet taste no distinct taste of the food im eating, I don't know if it's a chocolate,apple,chicken, grilled meat or the spolied food because I dont have the sense of smell.It's already 4 years and 6 months now since the accident.

I fell backwards on a sidewalk on Dec. 23 rd of last year. I got a concussion and now have zero sense of smell. I also have this background “smell” that is unpleasant, like chemicalish. When I eat I taste the chemical flavor, and hardly any real flavor. When I sit down to eat, I still hope and expect to taste, but every time it is a disappointment.
Has anyone heard of stem cell treatments for this?

Hey mate I recently went through same thing blacked out and woke up no knowing where I was or anything but lost my smell and taste about 4 weeks ago now.

I was in a car accident couple years back hit my head pretty with the airbag but didn't lose smell or taste but now I can not smell perfume food, cleaning supplies nothing and the only thing I taste slightly is salt this started three days ago just frustrated and annoyed at this point don't know what to do.

On December 30th I got hit by car and I was rushed to the hospital and I had a brain bleed. After 2 days I was released and they had me on anti seizure medication and I went through all my proper tests like ct scans, mri’s eeg/emg. And now I lost my sense of smell at the end of January and I’m afraid it’s going to be permanent is there anything I can do or is there hope for me.

Has anyone had their sense of smell heighten after concussion? Usually I’m stuffy all the time. Now I smell too much and it’s making me so sick!

Yes...vehicle crash 3.5 years ago, and I suffered a concussion at base of skull with 2 hemorrhagic strokes (brain bleeds) in both hemispheres...my sense of smell was very intense for the first couple years and most smells triggered severe nausea...sense of smell has since returned to "normal", but I continue to suffer numerous lingering issues from the TBI...for me the initial impact was left side of skull above ear with a secondary impact at base of skull (fracture) with the most severe bleeding in right hemisphere of brain

I do.. I knocked my forehead pretty bad (the left side of the head just on the hair line ). two years later i can smell every thing.I can even tell who has been in the room with out even asking, so long as i know your smell. Funny thing i have started remembering all the faces i have even seen.. the bad thing is my personality is really changing.

Pages