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Burning Smell Deserves And Er Visit


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So, This week has been moreso terrible than most and this morning even moreso than that. I was at work "pushing through" as usual but I just couldn't. I felt I was in and out of consciousness while sitting at the desk. Lightheadedness, pre-syncope, etc. which I normally have but the back of my head was feeling really bad, not a headache but pressure, almost like something pushing from the inside out, just feels like something is in there. Anyways, I started smelling a burning smell. It didn't go away and scared me, so, I googled what that meant, of course it said terrible things like I was having a stroke. I guess long story short, i went to the emergency room, who as usual, were of no help. They told me I was having a migraine and the smell was an aura. It wasn't a headache or a migraine in my opinion, I still feel crappy.

Have you ever had a burning smell? Was it migraine related. stroke related, or seizure related, or something else?

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Hi misstraci. I do have severe migraines and I do sometimes experience an intensifying of real smells or I(for lack of a better description) hallucinate smells that aren't there.It doesn't happen with every migraine and I sometimes will have many of my migraine aura symptoms without actually getting the headache. Nausea and extreme fatigue usually accompany the weird olfactory stuff for me. It hard to say what it was for you but it could have been migraine related. Hope you feel better.

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I assume you've had a brain MRI to rule out the very serious things? I've never smelled anything burning, but I've seen smoke that wasn't there a few times! I don't know what this symptom is about, but Katies explanation makes sense. I just wanted to say I'm sorry you're having all this weird and scary stuff going on. I'm just coming off of a really bad month like that and it's so frustrating to go through this and feel there is nowhere to turn. Let's hope you're just having some temporary dysautonomia weirdness - that will pass.

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I have discussed this on other threads on Epilepsy. Olfactory hallucinations are commonly related to epilepsy. Usually they last 30 seconds to 2 minutes with a maximum of 30 minutes, however they can repeat. They are an ictal sign. A person can have Simple Complex Seizures ( Temporal Lobe Epilepsy or Temperal Lobe Dysfuction ) without EVER having a physical convulsion. The most common ictal olfactory hallucination is a burning smell, and a smell of burning rubber is the textbook pathognmonic sign for this. Other ictal phenomenon include Deja Vu, and similar such as Deja Vecu, Jamais Vu, taste hallucinations etc.

This is not medical advice just straight from textbook. I was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy 20 years ago. POTS may be due to autonomic dysfunction from TLE, or TLE may be due to POTS when a person does not get enough blood to their brain and a seizure occurs. ( The last was from Dr. Lowe's video which was posted on this site ) An Epilepsy related to POTS may of course involve actual seizures as it has for some people.

I am, of course, just trying to figure out my own complex illness, but I hope that this information is of some use in searching for answers, as I noted it is not meant as medical advice.

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thanks Katy, Naomi, and Potluck. I really hope this has just been a bad period for me. Its just scary when things get worse; I'm sure all of you know that. And They mentioned the seizure thing as well at the ER. I need to follow up with my physcian they said. and that is depressing because he is not too understanding (haven't found someone new yet). He loves to pull the anxiety card and the, "i'm sorry, sometimes you just have to learn to live with things". that is easy for him to say right.... he's not the one experiencing this.

as far as the mri, i had one about three years ago when this all started and back then everything was fine. i've been trying to call my dr all week about a repeat he hasn't returned my call. I hope nothing has grown in that period but of course I need a redo to rest my mind. My main concern was that I had had a stroke because I heard someone say the burn smell indicates a stroke and that of course freaks me out :(

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I smell something burning when I sleep. I wake up usually sweaty, definitely tachy, and light headed. Most of my issues occur - I believe - while I'm sleeping. My BP drops to 85/45 ish during a bad flare (been better the last few months) as well as adrenaline issues and the feeling that blood is rushing thru the vessels in my neck. You can see them spams...can't tell if it's too much blood in the brain or not enough. Lots of head pressure for me and always Right ear pain, into my neck and when it's bad my upper right jaw. Smells are a challenge for me b/c I can smell 100x better than most. So my kids have to hold off on the Abercrombie and Fitch perfume, I no longer light candles, etc. But I do smell burning things on my bad nights

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Relax, sorry for what you're going through as well. Having symptoms at night and interfering with your sleep is not fun.

Thanks POTLUCK for the link. Do you have these types of seizures? If so, what kind of treatment are you on? Medications?

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Naomi--

I've recently, twice seen smoke that wasn't there!! I've been keeping it to myself-- but what do you think it is?? Aura related to migraine?

Also to the original poster- I have also recently been smelling things that aren't around- garlic once, vanilla once (much more pleasant lol) and an insence smell once. I have also in the past few months seen the return of my migraines, so I'm guessing/hoping these are all related and I'm not headed toward the looney bin...

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Westernmass - all I could come up with for seeing smoke that isn't there:

"The bursting of blood vessels in the retina as the shrinking vitreous gel pulls on them. Eye floaters caused by this kind of minor hemorrhaging create little black dots in your field of vision, which can resemble smoke or a cloud of gnats. They usually resolve themselves as the blood is reabsorbed by the body, but can last for months."

http://www.everydayhealth.com/vision-center/the-healthy-eye/floaters-flashes-retinal-tears.aspx

Traci - maybe mention getting a 24 hour EEG to rule out epilepsy? I had this done - it was negative. Might be worth a look.

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I smell ammonia, not a burning smell. It started with ragweed season for me. A sinus infection can cause phantosmia (phantom smells) as well as epilepsy and migraines. I have vasomotor rhinitis, so I can get transient sinus infections. There are so many crazy things that can cause this, I figure it is one of the ones I've already been diagnosed with and just roll with it.

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Firewatcher- the 30 seconds to 2 minutes with a max of 30 minutes helps in looking for TLE. Also making sure their is no real smell, for example a child that complained of the smell of burning rubber, was brought to the neuro and it turned out he had a better nose than his parents and was smelling burning rubber in the house! Other Temporal Lobe Epilepsy criteria can be helpful such as Deja Vu. The smell of burning rubber is pretty pathognomonic. ( Assuming their is no rubber burning and it is an olfactory hallucination.)

MissTraci- yes, I was diagnosed with TLE based on these type of symptoms and to quantitative EEG's over 20 years ago, and put on an antiepileptic, along with Propranolol for the tremor caused by the antiepileptic, and a couple other meds like thyroid (hypothyroid), and Selegiline ( A dopamine indirect agonist ) I was then symptom free for 20 years and 3 years ago got this Vertigo. I am not sure if it is really TLE that is my Vertigo. After the first 2 years of Vertigo, I tapered my Propranol slowly ( 3-4 weeks) and had crazy HR's. Now I am trying a slow 6 month taper with regular exercise at a HR higher than my calculated maximum ( which is difficult to do, not difficult to get it that high)

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I smell burning wood occasionally. It never lasts more than a few breaths, and I can go months without smelling it and then have a handful of episodes in one day. I mentioned it to my POTS neuro and all she did was ask me if I have migraines (I don't, but my mother does). She didn't seem too concerned, and I don't notice any issues accompanying the smell, so I just shrug it off.

But I'm kind of angry (but not surprised) that the ER didn't take your issue more seriously. It's not something that's happened to you before; what if you were having a stroke?

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Libby, thanks. Sorry you've expeirienced this as well. Regardless of why we smell smells that aren't there; it's not a normal thing! And you have no idea how angry I am that the ER didn't and never has taken me seriously. When I went multiple times at teh beginning of my POTS stuff, I would get the RXs for xanax and valium and be told I just need to chill out and take it easy. It's very degrading to be treated in such a way when you are having ligit symptoms and someone doesn't believe you. arrrrg.

Naomi, I made an appointment with a neurologist and the soonest they had was next Monday for an EEG!! I've never had one. Is there anything special I should or shouldn't do prior to? Such as take certain medicines or something.

This is vaguely on the same topic but more directly about hormones but I was reading a book last night that my friend got me about hormone imbalance and it was talking about how a good majority of Americans are estrogen dominant and most don't know it. It was suggesting a bio identical progesterone cream and listing all the benefits for it. One of the benefits were decreased electricla activity in the brain (and beside it, it said decreased seizures). I wouldn't be surprised if I and a lot of us were in that boat, by having too much estrogen in our bodies. I was unaware that not only does it occur naturally in our bodies but we get estrogen from food (all animal products, soy, etc) and also from certain chemicals, makeup, cleaning supplies and I never knew that.

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Naomi, I made an appointment with a neurologist and the soonest they had was next Monday for an EEG!! I've never had one. Is there anything special I should or shouldn't do prior to? Such as take certain medicines or something.

I don't remember having to take any special precautions before the test. I don't know if certain medications would affect results? You could call and ask them. Glad you're getting checked out by a neuro.

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I had my EEG done today and it showed abnormal activity the doctor said but he didn't call it seizure activity, he called it migraine activity. I've never heard that before. He wrote a prescription, I forget the name of the medicine, but to take at night. I was also telling him about the back left side of my head hurting/pressure and radiating into my neck. He said that an occipital nerve block would help that. I was reluctant but I did (a shot in the neck) and at first it felt fine but now, about 7 hours after the fact, my neck is excruciating, it feels worse than before he did that. Supposively the steroids don't kick in for a few days.

Has anyone ever had the shot in your neck? Did it help you?

Have you ever heard of migraine activity on an EEG?

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Well, that's good that you learned something from the test. Maybe the migraine medication will help- hope so! I've never had the shot, but have heard from a few friends that it IS painful at first, but then can help for months after. Let us know how you do. :)

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  • 2 years later...

There are things called Silent Migraines. Where you just get the aura and no headache. Sometimes I get bad auras and the headache isn't bad at all. One time before one of my migraines I had a weird metallic taste in my mouth.

http://migraine.com/blog/migraine-symptoms-olfactory-hallucinations/

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I smell burning rubber/ plastic and bleach for no reason. I run around the house looking for a fire. I never find one! Its usually when I am loopy for no reason as well. Iv never been dxed with seizures but I get what I call the "pop fizzies"...then I have to sleep for at least 4 hours. I know it is a deep seizure in an area of my brain that does not inhibit movement or consciousness. The way I got around this is to get on a pain medication that is used for nerve pain and also seizures. It helps even when the Drs. and tests are of no help.

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