I can still smell or taste things days after eating them, which is very unpleasant. Both my GP and my dentist are mystified and I really don’t know where to turn. What could be causing this?
Lots of people will resonate with being able to smell or taste something they have eaten recently, or even after a few hours. But being able to do so for days afterwards is quite unusual.
Phantosmia is the term for smelling something which isn’t really there, and there may be several reasons behind it. Firstly, check with your pharmacist to see whether any medication you are taking could be causing it. Alternatively, smells and tastes that linger could also be due to tooth decay, so another visit to the dentist may be in order.
Smell and taste are closely connected. Having indigestion or acid reflux can make you burp a lot, and this may bring the smell and taste of food back into your nose and mouth. If you have any symptoms of burning pain in the stomach, then a short course of medication, called proton pump inhibitors, may help.
Similarly, rumination syndrome is a condition where food you have just eaten rises back up to the throat, which can result in a persistent taste or smell, or food could be getting stuck in a pocket in your throat, known as pharyngeal or esophageal pouch, instead of going to the stomach.
Dr Kaye is the Mail On Sunday’s guest GP columnist
There could be other reasons for lingering smell. Soft, painless growths in the nose called nasal polyps can lead to an offensive smell. Even having a cold or allergies can lead to changes in smell, as can smoking.
Changes in smell can also be down to serious neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or stroke, so it is important to see your GP.
I took statins for 15 years, but stopped five years ago because I read they can cause dementia. My cholesterol has crept up and I have type 2 diabetes, so I was thinking about starting again, but I don’t want to lose my memory. What should I do?
Statins are prescribed to help lower cholesterol, and with it the chance of having a heart attack or stroke. There were concerns that memory loss was linked to taking statins, but research appears to have debunked this.
However, it’s not clear whether it is the cholesterol itself that increases the risk of dementia or if it’s other factors that are more common in people who have high cholesterol, such as high blood pressure, or a combination of these things.
In fact, research has shown that taking a statin to prevent cardiovascular disease could actually reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, which is the most common type of dementia, by almost a third.
When prescribing statins, your GP will consider many factors that could increase your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke, as well as cholesterol levels. These include age, body mass index (BMI), your blood pressure and whether or not you have conditions such as type 2 diabetes or chronic kidney disease. It is likely that someone with high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes would benefit from taking statins.
It would also be a good idea to discuss any other concerns you have around memory loss.
Whether or not you decide that statins are for you, lifestyle factors like quitting smoking and cutting your alcohol intake can help prevent dementia.
I’ve had severe tinnitus for two years that just doesn’t go away. The noise is worse at night, which is stopping me from sleeping. I’ve been prescribed benzodiazepines to help me sleep, although I know I shouldn’t take sedatives for too long. Would anything else help?
Tinnitus can make life miserable. The constant ringing, buzzing or whooshing noise may affect either one or both ears, but there are a number of treatments that can help reduce its effect.
Sound therapy, which involves apps or machines that emit white noise – the sound of rain, running water or similar constant soft sounds – is one option. It doesn’t get rid of the tinnitus, but works by distracting the brain, especially at night.
Tinnitus is also linked with anxiety and depression, which can be helped through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a talking therapy which can help you to deal with the symptoms.
Although the cause of tinnitus is unknown it is associated with hearing loss, so getting hearing aids can help some people. It is also linked to diabetes and thyroid conditions, so it is worth getting checked for these.
Medications, such as certain antibiotics and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen, can also trigger tinnitus.
Taking sedatives such as benzodiazepines is unlikely to help in the long term. Over time they become less effective and you need to start taking a higher dose to have the same effect. They can also cause side effects such as confusion, slurred speech and concentration problems.
It is best avoid stopping them suddenly as this may lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and panic attacks.
Skipping your health ‘MOT’ isn’t good for your health
New figures show that only four in ten adults go to their NHS Health Check appointment
Have you found it hard to make time for your NHS Health Check? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone, as new figures show that only four in ten adults go to their appointment.
These free health assessments – like an MOT for the body – are offered to everyone between 40 and 74, and are a vital way of detecting high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol – problems that may not cause symptoms but dramatically increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Doctors know that prevention is better than a cure, and if we catch these conditions early we can treat them, reducing the risks. But I also understand that taking time out to visit the GP when you feel perfectly well can feel like an unnecessary burden.
Have you not bothered to cash-in on your NHS Health Check invitation? And, if so, why? What would help you attend? Write in and share your thoughts.
When screening comes too late
Should we be screening for bowel cancer earlier? One study I read last week suggests deaths from this disease in women between 25 and 49 are expected to be 40 per cent higher this year than six years ago.
Writing in the Annals of Oncology, researchers blamed poor diets, heavy drinking and a lack of exercise. But bowel cancer can strike anyone.
I’m not a smoker, I don’t drink alcohol, I exercise regularly and eat plenty of fibre, but was still diagnosed with it at 39.
The Government is bringing the standard screening age down to 50 for people in England, but this still would have been too late for me.
In the US screening is offered from the age of 45, as research suggests doing so picks up more early-stage cases.
Is the NHS screening age too high? Write in and let us know.