Medically known as anosmia, loss of smell is the lack of functioning of the olfactory nerves, or an inability to perceive odors. Loss of smell is usually temporary and can be caused due to various minor ailments. However, the sense of smell can be lost permanently because of some serious conditions. Generally, temporary loss of smell occurs due to common colds and nasal allergies, such as hay fever. The sense of smell is directly linked to the sense of taste. Most people who complain of loss of smell also lose their ability to sense their taste. While such people can distinguish between salty, sweet, sour and bitter tastes, they may not be able to identify other flavors. Given here are some factors that contribute to the loss of smell. Read on further to know them and also find ways of treating the same.
Causes Of Anosmia
- The human nose contains nerves in the higher section that assist in smelling the outside world. The aromas reaching these nerves can be blocked by nasal polyps (small non-cancerous growths in the nose and sinuses), tumors or bony deformity inside the nose.
- The smell sense can be obstructed by a previous surgery or a blow to the head. The scar tissues are likely to damage or block the nerves of smell in the nose.
- Prolonged exposure to chemicals in related occupations too can reduce the ability to smell. To add on, there are certain medications that also affect the sense of smell.
- Temporary or permanent irritation or destruction of the mucus membranes lining inside the nose can also cause loss of smell. Such causes include acute sinusitis, hay fever, common cold, influenza and non-allergic rhinitis.
- There are certain factors that can damage or destroy the nerves in the brain, thereby resulting in anosmia. These include age, Alzheimer’s disease, brain aneurysm, diabetes, Huntington’s disease, Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann's syndrome, Korsakoff's psychosis, multiple sclerosis, malnutrition, Parkinson's disease, Pick's disease, Radiation therapy, deficiency of zinc, and so on.
Treatment Of Anosmia
- In case the cause of anosmia is common cold, wait for few days and see if the cold gets treated. If the cold does not get any better, take a warm bath as sweating assists in clearing the nasal cavity. You can also try some light exercises to reduce the stuffy feeling.
- In case of allergies, loss of smell usually occurs at a fixed time during the year. Hence, it is best to visit a doctor and get the main cause of the allergy diagnosed. According to the type of anosmia detected, you will be prescribed with a treatment, such as antihistamines, decongestants, vaporizers, saline nose washes, steroid nasal sprays and sometimes vitamin A injections.
- Excess exposure to dust and smoke can also lead to loss of smell, especially due to tobacco smoking. Thus, it is advised to quit smoking and avoid the company of a smoker. Use saline nose washes to remove the irritants from the nasal cavity. Also, wear a mask as a protection against inhaling harmful substances.
- Nasal polyps and tumors are one of the major causes of anosmia. Hence, get your polyps treated depending upon their size. For smaller and less polyps, they can be eliminated through steroids or other medicines. However, in case of larger and more polyps, they should be removed through surgery. Also, while smaller tumors can be removed through simple surgical procedures, complicated ones require radiation or chemotherapy.
- If the cause of loss of smell is due to sinus infection, antibiotics and decongestants or antihistamines can be consumed for some weeks to overcome nasal blockage. Avoid taking decongestants and antihistamines at the same time. However, if the sinusitis is serious, then it is better to get the infected part removed surgically.