Anosmia (Loss of Smell): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Anosmia

Have you ever imagined what it’s like to live without a sense of smell? Anosmia is the word used in the description of the partial or entire loss of the ability or sense of smell. Anosmia is a loss that may be permanent or temporary.

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Common conditions or medical issues that irritate the lining of the nose, such as a cold or an allergies, can lead to a temporary case of anosmia.

More severe conditions that affect the nerves or brain, such as head trauma or brain tumors, can lead to a permanent loss of smell. Sometimes, old age may cause anosmia.

Anosmia is not usually a serious issue, but it can have a significant effect on the quality of life a sufferer lives.

People who have anosmia may be unable to taste drinks or foods fully and may entirely lose interest in drinking or eating. This condition can lead to malnutrition or weight loss. Anosmia can also cause depression due to the fact that it may impair a person’s ability to taste or smell pleasurable foods.

What are the possible causes of anosmia?

Anosmia is a condition that is frequently caused by a blockage or swelling in the nose that prevents smells of all kinds from getting to the roof of the nose. Sometimes Anosmia is caused by an issue with the system that transports signals from a person’s nose to the brain.

Below are the primary causes of anosmia:

Irritation to the nose’s mucus membranes lining.

This can be as a result of:

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  • Common colds
  • Sinus infections
  • Chronic congestion not related to allergies (nonallergic rhinitis)
  • The flu, or influenza
  • Smoking
  • Allergies (allergic rhinitis)

A common cold is the most prevalent cause of temporary and partial loss of smell. In a case such as this, the anosmia will disappear on its own.

Blockage of the nasal passages

Loss of smell can happen if there is something physically blocking the passage of air into a person’s nose.

This may include:

  • Nasal polyps
  • Tumors
  • Bone deformities inside a person’s nose or a nasal septum

Nerve or brain damage

There are a number of receptors inside a person’s nose that are known to send information via nerves to a person’s brain. Anosmia can happen if any part of this pathway has suffered damage.

There are several conditions that can be responsible for this damage, including:

  • Brain tumors
  • Old age
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Hormonal problems
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Medications, as well as individual high blood pressure and antibiotics medications
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals that may have burnt the inside of your nose
  • Brain surgery
  • Brain or head injury
  • Radiation therapy
  • Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies
  • Stroke
  • Long-term alcoholism

In rare cases, a few persons are born without an active sense of smell as a result of a genetic condition. This condition is known as congenital anosmia.

How is anosmia diagnosed?

It is difficult to measure the loss of smell. Your doctor may have to ask you a couple of questions about your present symptoms, carry out a nose examination, perform a full physical analysis, and also ask about your health history.

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You can expect your doctor to ask questions about when the difficulty of smelling started if all types of smells or only some models are affected, and whether or you can taste food or not. Depending on your response, your doctor may also need to perform one or more of the tests below:

  • CT scans, which leverage on the use of X-rays to show a detailed image of a person’s brain
  • MRI scans, which makes use of magnets and radio waves to view the brain
  • An X-ray of the person’s skull
  • Nasal endoscopy to take a good look inside your nose

What are the possible complications of anosmia?

People who have anosmia may totally lose interest in all kinds of food and eating, causing them to become malnourished and lose weight.

People who have anosmia should make sure to have a functioning smoke alarm in their houses at all times. It is also essential that they are also cautious with the storage of food and even the use of natural gas because they may have challenges detecting gas leaks and spoiled foods.

Recommended precautions include:

  • Properly labeling all foods with their expiration dates
  • Carefully read labels on chemicals such as insecticides and kitchen cleaners

How is anosmia treated?

Treatment of anosmia depends on the root cause. If the loss of smell happens with an allergy, a cold, or a sinus infection, it will typically clear up on its own in a few days. You should consult your doctor if the anosmia doesn’t clear up once the cold or allergy symptoms have subsided.

Treatments that may be able to help resolve anosmia that was caused by nasal irritation may include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Cessation of smoking
  • Decongestants
  • Antibiotics, for bacterial infections
  • Reducing exposure to allergens and nasal irritants

A loss of smell discovered to be caused by nasal obstruction can be resolved by taking out whatever is found to be obstructing the nasal passage. This removal may require the use of a procedure to take out the nasal polyps, maybe straighten the nasal septum, or even clear out the sinuses.

People who are older are more susceptible to conditions like permanently losing their sense of smell. There is presently no known treatment for people who have congenital anosmia.

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People who have a partial loss of their ability or sense of smell can include concentrated flavoring agents to the food they eat to improve their enjoyment and food intake.

We hope that you found this article helpful. If you have suggestions, tips, or comments that you wish to share, kindly do that in the comments section provided below.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.