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Loss of Smell

loss-smell.hrA loss of smell is not too unusual, especially when accompanied by a cold or allergies. Nasal congestion can block air from reaching the smell receptors, preventing you from picking up on scents. This condition is temporary, and smell is restored once symptoms go away. Occasionally, a loss of smell can be longer lasting or permanent. This disorder is called anosmia, and can interfere with your enjoyment of life – while putting you in dangerous situations.

What Causes a Loss of Smell?

A temporary loss of smell is usually caused by a blockage or infection in the nasal cavity. After the virus has run its course or the infection clears up, scent will usually return to normal. However, when the olfactory receptors no longer function properly, the loss of smell can be permanent. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including age, trauma to the head, exposure to chemicals, nasal polyps, deviated septum, hypothyroidism, certain degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease and tumors.

Anosmia is sometimes just considered a nuisance, but it can have serious health consequences. We depend upon our sense of smell to alert us to hidden dangers like gas leaks, fires, and food that has spoiled. In addition, taste buds don’t function properly when we can’t smell. Many patients lose interest in eating, leading to malnutrition, severe weight loss, and depression.

Treating Anosmia

A temporary loss of smell is treatable, or will return on its own once the virus responsible has run its course. Topical nasal prescription medication can open up the nasal passages, enabling normal breathing and decrease inflammation which may be the cause. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections, and surgery to remove nasal polyps or fix a deviated septum is highly successful.

Permanent loss of smell is often untreatable, though there is ongoing research into treatment options like gene therapy.

If you suffer from a loss or lack of sense of smell, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified ENT Specialists.