Anosmia: Signs, Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Anosmia is the inability to perceive odor. This olfactory disorder is caused by an inflamed nasal mucosa or blockages in the nasal passages. In severe cases, anosmia is caused by destroyed temporal lobe. While effects of anosmia are usually temporary. But there are cases where in the absence of a sense of smell becomes permanent. Permanent anosmia is common among aging patients and those with an underlying medical condition.

Symptoms of Anosmia

The telltale signs and symptoms of anosmia are the lack of sense of smell. Other symptoms include a change in the way things smell and changes in the way food or drinks taste.

Causes of Anosmia

Many things could trigger anosmia. Common colds, sinusitis, allergy or poor air quality are the common causes of this condition. Nasal polyps, trauma to the nasal cavity and exposure to toxins could also trigger anosmia.

Certain antidepressants, antibiotics and inflammatory drugs could cause anosmia. Cocaine abuse, old age, and an underlying medical condition could also cause the lack of a sense of smell. These conditions could be Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or hormonal disturbances. Radiation treatments could also cause anosmia.

If you notice the loss of smell and the condition lasted a week or two – and it’s not due to allergic reactions or cold – consult your physician. To diagnose this condition, your doctor will look inside your nose using a special instrument. At first, he will check for polyp or non-cancerous growth. If there is no polyp, your doctor will check for an infection. Further testing will include checking for sinus problems. A CT scan might be necessary to check the nasal area. Once you are diagnosed with anosmia, your doctor will check what’s triggering the condition.

Treating Anosmia

Treating anosmia will depend on the cause of the condition. If it’s simple cold or allergy, treatment might not be needed. The symptoms will go away on their own. Over the counter decongestants or antihistamines will help clear the nose and prevent anosmia.

On the other hand, if symptoms persist and medication made it worse, consult your doctor. You could be suffering from an infection. If anosmia is caused by an infection, you will be prescribed antibiotics. If the condition is merely a symptom of an underlying condition, your doctor will have to treat the undiagnosed condition first.

If non-cancerous growth or polyps cause anosmia, surgery is needed to remove the obstruction and gain the sense of smell.

If you suspect that the condition is caused by a reaction to a certain medication, tell your doctor about it. Your doctor will present alternative treatments to prevent the loss of smell. Do not stop the medication unless advised by your physician.

Anosmia symptoms will come and go spontaneously. However, anosmia could become permanent if you are aged 60 and above. Most times, age is a factor in the likelihood of developing anosmia.

Preventing and Living with Anosmia

While not treatable, you can still live a normal life even if diagnosed with anosmia. Start by putting fire detectors and smoke alarms in your home. Exercise caution when eating leftovers. If you doubt the safety of a certain food, do not eat it.

To prevent anosmia, quit smoking right now. Smoking dulls the senses especially the sense of smell. Limit your exposure to chemicals such as insecticides.


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