Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

What is Anosmia or Loss of Smell?

Anosmia or losing the ability to smell is quite a common problem which an individual has at one point or the other. Anosmia can be partial or complete but it is very rare that someone has complete loss of the ability to smell. Sometimes Anosmia or loss of smell can also be congenital with an individual having inability to smell things right from birth. Anosmia or loss of smell can be permanent or temporary depending on the cause of it. Anosmia or loss of smell does not really indicate a serious medical condition but if an individual has an impaired sense of smell then it does not allow him to enjoy the things which normal people do like the smell of a good food, smell of fresh flowers and the like. This may make the individual depressed. The individual may soon lose interest in eating foods as he or she is not able to enjoy food that normal people do due to Anosmia or loss of smell which may then lead to unintentional weight loss. There are quite a few causes of Anosmia or loss of smell, some of which are quite common and weather related conditions while other are rare and related to certain medical conditions. In this article, we have mentioned certain causes of Anosmia or loss of smell and its treatment.

What is Anosmia or Loss of Smell?

Causes of Anosmia or What Causes Loss of Smell

Anosmia or Loss of Smell Caused Due to Common Colds: This is one of the most common causes of Anosmia or inability to smell. In the cold weather when the nasal passages get blocked, it results in an individual to lose the sense of smell on a temporary basis. Common cold goes away in a week's time on its own. One can also use over the counter decongestants for relieving the blocked passages and getting the sense of smell back to normal. Sometimes medical conditions like sinusitis or a sinus infection can also cause an individual to lose the ability to smell. You need to consult a physician for medications to get rid of sinusitis and other sinus infections which could be cause for anosmia or loss of smell.

Causes of Anosmia or What Causes Loss of Smell

Anosmia or Loss of Smell Caused Due to Damage to Innermost Lining of the Nose: Sometimes due to conditions like acute sinus infections there is irritation of the mucous membranes on the inside of the nose. This may cause temporary or permanent loss of ability to smell or Anosmia. Some other medical conditions which can result in Anosmia are allergic rhinitis, influenza, chronic sneezing unrelated to allergies.

Anosmia or Loss of Smell Caused Due to Nasal Passage Obstruction: Sometimes, there is some sort of deformity or something physical present in the nose which may block the passage of the nose resulting in anosmia or loss of smell. The most common form of this is a bony deformity of the nose which can be caused due to a blow to the nose like in a boxing fight and the like. Other conditions that can block the nasal passage are nasal polyps, or tumors.

Anosmia or Loss of Smell Caused Due to Brain or Nerve Damage: There are certain medical conditions which impair the olfactory system of the body. The olfactory system is the part of the nervous system related to the sense of smell. Medical conditions causing damage to the brain resulting in impaired olfactory system are normal aging, Alzheimer disease, aneurysm in the brain, excessive exposures to certain chemicals, hypoglycemia, Klinefelter syndrome, malnutrition, certain antihypertensives, multiple sclerosis, multiple system atrophy, Parkinson disease, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury due to a motor vehicle crash or an assault.

What is the Treatment for Anosmia or Loss of Smell?

What is the Treatment for Anosmia or Loss of Smell?

The treatment of anosmia or loss of smell depends on the underlying cause of the condition. People who are born with anosmia or without sense of smell cannot be cured as this condition is mostly permanent in those people. Anosmia or loss of sense of smell caused due to any of the other conditions mentioned can be treated with treatment of the underlying condition. Citing an example, steroid are useful for treating sinusitis which when treated can cure Anosmia or help get back the loss of smell. Some of the treatment strategies used for treating Anosmia are nasal wash, use of a nasal spray, antihistamines, and steroids. In cases if the loss of smell is caused due to polyps, then surgery to remove the polyps will be required and once the polyps are removed then the patient gets back the sense of smell that was lost due to the polyps. If there is a sinus blockage causing Anosmia, then a surgery called as endoscopic sinus surgery may be recommended. In this surgery, all the sinuses are opened and cleaned to reduce the inflammation and treat anosmia or loss of smell.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: April 2, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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