Beta blockers and anosmia
June 11, 2021 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Has anybody lost their sense of smell and/or taste from taking propranolol or another beta blocker on a temporary basis? If so, how long did it take you to regain it?

I have weaned off propranolol after successfully being treated for hyperthyroidism. It was good for my anxiety and my tremor, but among other things, I lost my sense of smell and taste, which at first I thought was from allergies. (I do have severe allergies right now. I know it is not COVID because I have had the shot for several months, plus I live in the animal dander capital of the world, but that's another story.)

It's been at least four days since I stopped taking propranolol, and I still can't smell anything. I am getting a little sense of taste back, unless that is placebo. How long does this last? I can't find a source that tells me how long to expect.
posted by Countess Elena to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't have personal firsthand knowledge on this, but poking around the internet led me to this case report. A woman on a beta-blocker treatment (metoprolol, not propranolol) had anosmia begin after three months, tapered her dosage, and was recovering her sense of smell three weeks after ending the drug. Full recovery happened in the second month after discontinuation.

She still had the original arrhythmias, so they put her on a different beta-blocker (amiodarone), which resulted in disruptions to her sense of taste after two weeks, and it was back to normal two weeks after discontinuing.

Different drugs, different person, different conditions, but *IF* her situation is typical, then you're looking at about 2-8 weeks.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 10:08 AM on June 11, 2021

Best answer: Antiarrhythmic drug-induced smell and taste disturbances: A case report and literature review (2018) recounts the case of a 73 year-old woman prescribed a different beta blocker (metoprolol):
The patient recovered from the olfactory dysfunction 3 weeks [after tapering metoprolol], as determined by her ability to once again perceive the smell of soap. By the second month after discharging metoprolol, the patient's ability to recognize smells was returning back to baseline.
The report goes on to note
Generally, these reversible sensory dysfunctions induced by metoprolol and amiodarone are rare, and the associated clinical research is lacking. Although past literature has summarized the drug-induced taste and smell disorders and the potential mechanisms, the actual frequency, clinical characteristics, and dosage correlation of drugs, especially antiarrhythmic drugs, remains vague.
There is a chart summarizing the scant literature, mostly individual case reports for various cardiovascular drugs, and although it does not list recovery time it does indicate that most patients either recovered or partially recovered from the smell or taste disturbance.
posted by jedicus at 10:10 AM on June 11, 2021

My grandma lost her sense of smell and never got it back. I'm not sure why, but it could be this type of medication. She had a pacemaker.

In the meanwhile, be extra careful about making sure gas stoves are turned off. My grandpa came home one day and apparently the whole house was FULL of gas and probably would have exploded if she had turned the stove on (as the story goes). She couldn't smell the problem.
posted by aniola at 12:04 PM on June 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I know it is not COVID because I have had the shot for several months

Have you actually been tested, though? Being fully inoculated doesn't prevent you 100% from getting COVID, it just makes it much less likely. Ignore this if you've been tested negative, but right now? I would at least rule it out before assuming it's a very rare side effect of your medication.
posted by fight or flight at 12:23 PM on June 11, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! I really appreciate it, and I feel better for knowing that it isn't permanent. Today I smelled my lip balm for a second, which was very exciting, but I didn't smell the dog turd I had to scrub up from the floor, which was just as well.

aniola: that's a really good point. I will be careful around the kitchen.

fight or flight: it's true that it's not impossible, but between the things I've done and experienced since my loss of smell, I think COVID is less likely.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:42 PM on June 11, 2021

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