Have you ever had a loss of smell and taste? You certainly might have had flu in which this happens. Often, we don’t appreciate our sense of taste or smell much until we lose it. This article will talk about anosmia, its causes, signs and symptoms, and treatment options.
What Is Anosmia?
Anosmia is a condition that involves a complete loss of smell. While some individuals get anosmia by birth, others may gradually lose the sensation to smell. It is suggested that anosmia affects approximately 3–20% of people. Also called smell blindness by some people, anosmia can be temporary or permanent.
The process of smell involves nervous messaging to and from the brain and nose. When you sniff on something, air entering your nose containing the odor molecules comes in contact with the olfactory nerve endings responsible for the sense of smell.
These nerves are found on the nasal epithelium internally. When stimulated by odor molecules, these nerves send signals to the brain.
Upon arrival in the brain, it processes this olfactory information and translates it into an odor that you can identify.
What Are the Causes of Anosmia?
One of the most prevalent causes of anosmia is nasal congestion that commonly occurs due to a cold, sinus infection, allergy, or bad air quality. There are other causes of anosmia too, which include:
- Nasal polyps – minor noncancerous progressions in the nose and sinuses, blocking the nasal passage.
- Injury to the nasal cavity, damaging the olfactory nerves, such as surgery or head trauma.
- Exposure to noxious substances, for example, pesticides.
- Certain medicines, such as antidepressants and anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, and cardiac drugs.
- Abuse of cocaine
- Old age – like every other organ’s activity, sense of smell, vision, and hearing, may also weaken with time.
- Certain underlying health conditions, including nutritional deficiencies, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, hormonal imbalances, and congenital disorders.
- Head and neck radiation treatment.
The Signs and Symptoms of Anosmia
The fundamental symptom of anosmia is the loss of smell. Individuals born with anosmia may not even realize they have it. This is because they had never appreciated the sense of smell.
On the other hand, the loss of smell can be an initial sign of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. If you notice an inability to smell, you should see a doctor right away.
A lack of sense of smell can be dangerous as it does not allow a person to smell the warning odors in foods and the environment like the smell of smoke from a fire, a smell of a toxic chemical, etc.
Besides, individuals suffering from anosmia are predisposed to a low quality of life and feelings of well-being.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Anosmia is generally detected when a patient self-report a loss of or alteration in their ability to smell. The self-reported olfactory function index of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) serves as a dependable approach to diagnose anosmia.
As for the treatment, your doctor will first identify your cause of anosmia and then prescribe the appropriate treatment. There are, however, cell modification and genetic therapeutic options for individuals with a genetic cause. For anosmia due to any infection or head injury, your doctor may suggest supplementation of zinc gluconate or scent training.
Corticosteroid drugs or surgery may be the options for those having anosmia due to sinonasal disorders. However, some cases might also resolve on their own without medical treatment. As of this writing, scent training is the preferred therapy for most patients who suffer a loss of smell.