Anosmia is a condition where an individual’s ability to smell is completely lost.
The loss of smell may be the result of certain conditions or illnesses. This condition has multiple causes and can often be reversed by treating said causes.
Our sense of smell is driven by the stimulation of olfactory nerve cells. If they are affected or damaged, it can result in either permanent or temporary loss of smell.
A complete loss of smell is referred to as anosmia. Individuals experiencing advanced anosmia are unable to detect any kind of odour. At times, this condition is also accompanied by ageusia, which refers to a loss of taste.
People of all ages may be affected by partial anosmia. However, anosmia with a long-lasting impact affects adults above the age of 50.
Another type of anosmia, referred to as congenital anosmia, occurs more rarely. This is a condition where people are born without the ability to smell.
It is important to note that experiencing a loss of smell is not dangerous. However, it may be a symptom of a more serious health condition. Hence, anosmia can serve as a warning when there is something more serious at play. It is best to pay heed and make an appointment with a healthcare provider.
The main symptom of anosmia is that patients tend to lose their ability to smell completely. They may either lose it suddenly or experience a gradual loss.
During this journey, they may notice that even familiar smells appear different before the sense of smell completely vanishes.
They become unable to smell spoilt food, perfumes, chemicals and burning smells. They may also have difficulty recalling memories connected to one’s smell.
Since the senses of smell and taste are closely connected, the tongue may be able to taste the basic types of flavours – spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. However, with the loss of the ability to smell, detecting subtle or nuanced flavours may be more challenging.
This condition is a common side effect of colds, sinus infections, and allergies, among other conditions.
For instance, one may experience anosmia after a cold. During the COVID-19 pandemic, anosmia was also a common symptom. However, in these cases, the symptoms people experience are temporary.
Here is a list of the conditions and causes of anosmia:
- Conditions include nasal polyps, common cold, flu, nasal congestion, deviated septum, sinusitis, hay fever, and allergies.
- Certain lifestyle conditions, such as diabetes, smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure, can also result in anosmia.
- A nasal polyp, which is a tiny noncancerous growth in the nose, can end up blocking the nasal passage, which triggers anosmia.
- Traumatic brain injury and brain tumours can result in injury to the nerves and smell nerves, which results in anosmia.
- Anosmia can also be a symptom of ageing.
- Progressive disorders such as Kallmann’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Specific medication such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicine, antihistamines, and heart medicine.
- Continuous exposure to poor air quality and pollution.
Anosmia diagnosis and treatment
Anosmia causes and treatment can be determined only after proper diagnosis by a credible ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT). They will run several tests, such as a CT scan, before diagnosing the patient with anosmia.
Once the key cause of anosmia is identified, a credible healthcare provider will recommend a course of treatment. As the treatment is completed, the patient’s sense of smell will also be restored.
It must be noted that currently, there is no cure for a condition like congenital anosmia. At times, anosmia reduces and goes away on its own.
It has been observed that those who have suffered from COVID-19 typically get back their sense of smell within two or three weeks. However, the recovery time can vary based on the individual’s immunity and quality of health.
Tips to prevent anosmia
At times anosmia may be caused by certain lifestyle issues. It is advisable to avoid smoking, prevent exposure to harsh chemicals, and use protective gear during rigorous activities to reduce the potential for brain injuries.
Patients experiencing anosmia in the aftermath of an illness or finding their sense of smell loss lingering long after their condition should be completely healed must visit a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Be sure to choose a healthcare partner with experience and credibility because this condition can be easily misdiagnosed.
Our highly specialised ENT department offers the full spectrum of services such as rhinology, paediatric otolaryngology, otology, laryngology, vertigo treatment, allergy treatment and head and neck oncology. We also have state-of-the-art equipment for testing and diagnosis, along with seasoned ENT specialists.