Anosmia, or the loss of your sense of smell or olfactory, affects up to 20% of the population. It often leads to the loss of your sense of taste as well. Often temporary, sometimes permanent, the loss of smell is rarely complete, but even partial loss is a cause for concern.
This condition, while not life-threatening, can have a negative impact on your quality of life.
Loss of smell can:
- Reduce or eliminate the enjoyment of food
- Disable the detection of dangerous odors/spoiled food
- Cause a loss interest in eating, which can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and depression
Beyond these lifestyle changes, anosmia can be a symptom of a more serious condition.
- Anosmia can be worsened when additional medications are taken.
- Life expectancy is negatively associated with lowered olfactory abilities.
- Patients with lower olfactory scores are more likely to develop neurologic disease such as Parkison’s Disease and Alzheimer’s, or to have cognitive decline after onset of the condition.
- Some common causes of anosmia are:
- Chronic sinusitus
- Inflammation in the sinus
- An obstruction in the sinus
- Viral infection
- Head Trauma
- Neurodegenerative Disease
- Allergies, Cold or Flu (often, when this is the cause, the anosmia is temporary)
Less common causes are:
- Cocaine use
- Toxic exposure to substances such as benzene, butyl acetate, chlorine, formaldehyde, ethyl acetate, and paint solvents
- Industrial exposure to heavy metals
- Nutritional factors, like deficiencies in Vitamin A, B6, B12, and trace metals
- A complete or partial loss of the sense of smell which, can be sudden or gradual
- A distorted sense of smell
- Familiar things lack odor
- Loss of the ability to taste salty, sweet, bitter or sour (can be one, two or all)
- Distorted sense of taste
- runny nose
- post nasal drip
- difficulty breathing through nose
- mouth breathing
- burning tongue
- burning mouth
- dry mouth
- dry eyes
- frequent yeast infections
- migraine headaches
We will gather your medical history and discuss with you any recent changes in your health. Then a full examination of your nose and sinus passages will be conducted. A scratch and sniff smell test will be administered to better understand or quantify the level of your smell loss. Nasal endoscopy (a deep look deep inside with a lighted telescope) will help us diagnose the cause of your loss of smell. Imaging (MRI or CT scanning ) may be recommended to help us find out what caused your loss of smell, to rule out more serious possible causes, and to better offer a prognosis on your recovery.
Fifty percent of anosmia cases can be treated and symptoms reversed, depending on the underlying cause. And in cases that cannot be reversed, symptoms can often be reduced with treatment.
Some treatments that can help if your loss of smell is from obstruction:
- a decongestant
- an antihistamine
- a steroidal nasal spray
- sinus surgery for nasal obstruction, chronic sinusitis or nasal polyps
- short term course of oral steroids
More recent innovative therapies that have shown promise in controlled studies in improving the sense of smell include:
- Intranasal theophylline spray
- Smell therapy.
Both are offered as part of a comprehensive therapeutic regimen at the NY Sinus Center.
Learn more from this comprehensive Anosmia presentation prepared by Dr. Robert Pincus: Olfaction 2016 – Anosmia Stinks
It’s important that you first consult with us, your physicians, about whether any of these treatments may be suitable for you.
To determine whether you are affected by anosmia, fill out and submit our Anosmia / Loss of Smell Questionnaire.