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Anosmia (Loss of Sense of Smell) – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Guess what it would be like not to feel any scents – not even those of spoiled food but neither of flowers or perfume. The fact is that such a disease exists and it is called anosmia, or loss of sense of smell.

What exactly is anosmia?

Anosmia is a disease in which the patient loses his or her sense of smell. It may be temporary or permanent, congenital, or acquired. The ability to perceive aromas may affect only one nostril (hyposmia) or exclude the registration of a particular scent (a specific type of anosmia).

The loss of the sense of smell is not life-threatening in the strictest sense of the word, but it should be treated because it causes discomfort to the patient and puts them at risk.

Anosmia makes the food less appetizing so the eating habits of the patient could change dramatically. Also, the illness often leads to depression as the patient experiences more a severe loss of one of their senses.

As a result of the depressive condition, there is also a decrease in libido. But the most dangerous consequence of this disease is the patient’s inability to smell harmful gases, smoke (caused by fire), or spoiled food.

What are the causes of anosmia?

When we smell something, the source of the aroma separates a molecule that stimulates particular nerve cells located in the nose. These, in turn, should send a signal to the brain so that it can decode the smell. Anything that prevents even a small part of this process can cause a loss of the sense of smell. Therefore, the reasons for the occurrence of the disease are many.

Permanent anosmia may have occurred after an inflammation of the nasal mucosa, a blockage of the nasal passages, or damage to the temporal lobe.

Sometimes it is induced by the death of the neurons of the olfactory receptors. The culprits are also diseases such as meningitis, neurosyphilis, and nasal polyps. In rare cases, anosmia is a sign of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. More often than not, however, the cause of the disease is a brain injury.

Temporary loss of sense of smell may be a consequence of a cold, sinusitis, hormonal imbalance, a deficiency of a substance in the body, or poor air quality. Excessive use of nasal sprays also unlocks the potential for the disease to occur.

The environment in which you work in also matters. For example, those who are exposed to toxic chemicals are in more danger of catching the disease than others. Smokers and the elderly may also have it.

Congenital anosmia is usually caused by genetic factors.

Diagnosis of anosmia

If more than two weeks after an illness the patient still has no sense of smell, it may be a sign of the disease. A diagnosis is made by ENT doctors. Specialized tests and studies are conducted, sometimes through magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography (a CT scan).

The nervous system is also tested to check for damaged cranial nerves. Doctors also question the patient about other recent illnesses or medical interventions that may have triggered the disease.

Treatment of anosmia

Usually, the treatment of anosmia involves the intake of particular medication whose composition may affect the recovery of the sense of smell. Glucocorticoids are of great importance in this regard – the types of hormones responsible for carbohydrate and protein digestion that contribute to the body’s balanced state.

Loss of smell can also be treated with acupuncture. Only in severe cases is an operation necessary for removing the barrier or the polyp that interferes with the smell.

In addition to anosmia, there is also hyperosmia – increased sensitivity to any odor.