A partial or complete loss of smell is known as anosmia. While anosmia is rarely serious, it can interfere with your quality of life. If you're living with anosmia, you may have trouble tasting foods and lack the desire to eat.
Unfortunately, this can spiral into serious issues like malnutrition, weight loss, and even depression. A loss of smell can also pose a safety hazard as it can inhibit your ability to smell spoiled food and beverages as well as gas leaks, smoke, and other dangerous substances.
The good news is that loss of smell is often temporary, especially when it's caused by a stuffy nose from a cold. But sometimes, it may persist and signify a more serious condition that requires medical intervention.
Causes of Anosmia
In most cases, anosmia is the result of a blockage or swelling in the nose that obstructs odors from traveling to its top. It can be caused by a number of conditions including sinus infections, the flu, tumors, and nasal polyps. Anosmia may also arise due to brain and nerve damage that stems from Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Huntington's disease.
It can be a real challenge to measure a loss of smell. If you believe you are experiencing it, your doctor will likely ask you questions related to your symptoms. They may also perform a thorough nose exam and inquire about your health history. In addition, your doctor may conduct an imaging test like a CT scan, MRI scan, skull x-ray, and nasal endoscopy.
The cause of anosmia will dictate your doctor's recommended treatment plan. If a sinus infection or cold has led to the condition, you can expect it to subside on its own within a few days. In the event your anosmia is related to nasal irritation, decongestants, antihistamines, or steroid nasal sprays may be prescribed.
Treatment for anosmia that comes from nasal obstruction may involve removing nasal polyps, clearing out the sinuses, or correcting the nasal septum. Another effective anosmia treatment that may be suggested is olfactory training, which involves deliberately sniffing lemon, cloves, and other smells for about 20 seconds a few times a day for a time period of at least 3 months.