Do you know what anosmia is? It is a complete loss of smell. Most of you may not understand the significance of the smell. But, can you imagine what it will feel like when you cannot smell your favorite perfume, food, or other things? The issues due to loss smell are not limited to just that as it affects your eating habits and puts you in danger. Without your sense of smell, you cannot enjoy the taste of the food. It can result in a loss of appetite. Similarly, loss of smell can also result in the inability to detect any gas leak or smoke from the fire. It will put your life at risk. So, the loss of smell can affect your life.
Taste and smell disorders are quite common. Every year several hundreds of thousands of people visit their doctor across the globe to deal with the condition. Loss of smell can either affect you temporarily or permanently. So, you need a doctor’s help to detect the actual problem. Simple issues like the common cold can result in the problem. As you recover from it, your sense of smell returns. But, elderly people who suffer from loss of smell cannot regain it. But, not detecting smell can also indicate some serious medical conditions. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor to diagnose the actual problem and get the necessary treatment.
The Basics Of Smell
Before going into the details of anosmia, you need to understand the importance of smell. So, how can you smell? The sense of smell is determined by certain processes in your body. When odor or fragrance is released from a substance (like flowers or food), the molecules stimulate the olfactory nerve cells. These are special nerve cells situated high up in your nose. These nerves send signals to your brain. The brain identifies a specific smell.
Any obstacle with the processes can lead to loss of smell. So, simple problems like nasal congestion to severe issues like a nasal blockage or nerve cell damage can interfere with the process and result in loss of smell. Your ability to smell is important for other senses like the taste. Without a sense of smell, you find it difficult to detect certain flavors. It affects your taste buds, leading to poor quality of life.
Anosmia refers to the condition causing partial or complete loss of sense of your smell. In people, the condition may develop temporarily or permanently. Depending on the underlying condition, you can feel a loss of sense of smell for a short time or a long time. Common conditions like a cold or allergy can irritate your nose’s lining. So, it results in a temporary loss of smell. But, a serious condition affecting your nerves or brain can result in permanent loss of smell. Conditions like head trauma or brain tumors can result in the condition. People in their advanced age can also experience loss of sense of smell. While the condition is not serious, it has a powerful impact on the quality of a person’s life.
Wondering why? It is because people suffering from the condition find it difficult to taste some food items. So, it results in losing interest in eating food. This results in weight loss or lack of nutrition. Some people can feel the condition triggering mental issues. The impairment of the sense of smell or taste can result in depression. So, you need to contact your doctor immediately if the problem starts affecting your daily life.
The prominent symptom of anosmia is the loss of smell. People who suffer from the condition notice a difference in the way things smell. For example, people feel a lack of odor in familiar things.
Causes Of Anosmia
Anosmia can occur due to different reasons. From a simple problem that can go away within a few days to something that causes a problem with the system sending important signals from your nose to the brain. The causes include:
According to the latest studies, coronavirus infection can also cause a sudden loss of smell. Some people tested positive for COVID-19 have shown the signs of loss of smell and taste.
Irritation Of Nasal Lining
When you suffer from irritation to the mucus membranes lining your nasal cavity, then you can suffer from anosmia. The condition can result from the following problems:
- Common cold
- Sinus infections
- Allergic rhinitis (allergies)
- Nonallergic rhinitis (chronic congestion caused due to non-allergic reasons)
Simple cases like the common cold can heal without any treatments. So, you may require only home remedies or over-the-counter treatments to deal with the condition.
Blocks Of Nasal Passages
When something is physically blocking the nasal passage, it can prevent the air from passing into the nose. This can also result in a loss of smell. The condition resulting in such issues are:
- Nasal polyps
- The nasal septum or Bone deformities inside the nose
Nerve/Brain Damage Causing Anosmia
If the pathway that senses the signals to the brain using the receptors experience damage, then it can result in loss of smell. The damage to the pathway can occur due to the following conditions:
- Old age
- Brain tumors
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Hormonal problems
- Huntington’s disease
- Underactive thyroid
- Take certain medication (like high blood pressure medication and antibiotics)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chemical exposure irritating the nose
- Head/brain injury
- Vitamin Deficiencies
- Long-term alcoholism
- Brain surgery
People receiving radiation therapy for head and neck cancers can suffer from loss of smell. It also damages the taste buds, which results in a loss of interest in eating food. People also suffer from dry mouth as a result of the treatment.
It is the rare condition occurring due to certain genetic disorders like congenital insensitivity to pain or Kallman syndrome or develops as an isolated abnormality with no additional symptoms. Such people suffer from the inability to smell.
See A Doctor For Anosmia
When do you need to see a doctor for anosmia? Since most people suffer from a temporary loss of smell due to simple issues like a cold, sinus infection, and allergies, it clears up after a short time. So, within a few days, you can get back your sense of smell. But, when it does not happen, you need to see a doctor check if some underlying health issues trigger the condition. Loss of smell is easy to treat in some cases with prompt medical attention. For bacterial infection, the doctor prescribes antibiotics or removes the blockage in the nasal passage causing the condition. But, in some cases, you cannot reverse the loss.
When you suffer from loss of smell for more than a week and common cold or allergy is not the reason for the condition, then consult your doctor. It is difficult to measure the loss of smell. So, only a medical professional can detect the presence of a problem. When you consult a doctor, the doctor performs the following tests to detect the condition:
Your doctor examines the nose and performs a complete physical examination. The doctor also asks you about medical history. You need to inform the doctor regarding when the problem started and the odors you have difficulty smelling. You must also convey to the doctor if you can taste the food. Based on the answers you provide, the doctor suggests several tests.
Sophisticated imaging tests can help determine any structural issues or problems in your nasal canal or brain. The imaging tests used to detect any problems are:
- X-ray of the skull
- CT Scans to get a detailed image of the brain
- MRI to get images of the brain using radio waves and magnets
It is to look into your nasal passage along with sinuses using an endoscope.
Complications Of Anosmia
What happens when you lose the sense of smell? People suffering from temporary or permanent anosmia can suffer from the following complications:
People with anosmia may lose interest in food and eating, leading to malnutrition and weight loss.
Trouble Detecting Smoke/Leaks
People suffering from a loss of smell cannot detect any gas leaks or smoke due to fires. It can put their lives in danger.
Trouble Detecting Spoiled Food
With the loss of smell, it becomes difficult to identify spoilt food. So, they need to maintain caution while storing and using food items.
Medical Treatments To Deal With Anosmia
Treatment for loss of smell depends on the underlying cause. Simple cases like loss of smell due to allergy, common cold, or sinus infection clear up after a few days. You can follow some home remedies to deal with the condition. But, if you see no change in the condition after a few days of following the home remedies, then you need to consult a doctor. Based on the underlying condition, your doctor prescribes the following:
Treatment For Nasal Congestion
Too much mucus in your nasal cavity can result in loss of smell. So, when home remedies fail, your doctor prescribes the following to clear the mucus:
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Antibiotics (It is prescribed for bacterial infections)
- Limit your exposure to allergens and irritants
- Avoid smoking
Surgical Intervention To Overcome Anosmia
In some people, the loss of smell persists for several weeks. The preliminary treatment may not offer any relief or the condition recurs frequently. You can suffer from the issue due to upper respiratory or sinus infections. It can also develop due to nasal obstruction. So, the doctor suggests surgical intervention when taking antibiotics or using nasal sprays does not offer relief. Based on the issue, you can undergo the following:
It is the invasive surgery used to clear nasal obstruction caused due to deviated septum. During the procedure, the surgeon tries to straighten the bent bone as well as the cartilage in your septum.
Bilateral Endoscopic Computer-Aided Sinus Surgery
Using the computer, your surgeon can complete complex surgeries. It is the advanced technology used to alleviate sinus and nasal problems. Computer-aided surgical instrumentation allows the surgeons to perform the delicate procedure with more precision and less damage to a major surrounding structures like nerves or arteries.
It is a certain type of nasal surgery performed with the help of an endoscope. It uses small balloon catheters. These catheters inflate to ensure the draining of large nasal sinuses. It is suggested by doctors when sinus inflammation or severe rhinosinusitis triggering a blockage in your nose.
Treatment For Anosmia In Older People
No cure is available for loss of smell in older people. It is because advanced age results in loss of smell permanently.
There is no treatment currently available for people with congenital anosmia.
Effective Remedies At Home To Treat Anosmia
If nasal congestion or other simple problem triggers temporary loss of smell, then you can try some home remedies. These are effective in healing your nasal passage and reverse loss of smell.
Garlic For Overcoming Anosmia
Garlic is known for its anti0inflammatory properties. It has ricinoleic acid as its active constituent that has the power to reduce inflammation and swelling developing inside your nasal passage. When you use garlic, the anti-bacterial properties can offer you an advantage by clearing out phlegm deposits from the nasal passage. So, it widens the nasal passage, which eases breathing. Add crushed garlic into boiling water. You can crush 4-5 garlic cloves in a cup of water. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture and drink it while it is still hot. Drink this mixture twice a day to restore the sense of smell.
Drink Lemon Juice
Lemon is abundant in Vitamin c, anti-microbial properties, and antioxidants. So, lemon has high significance in treating different infections causing excessive mucous deposits. This deposit can cause a runny nose or blocked nose. So, drinking lemon juice can flush out such mucous deposits. In a glass of warm water, squeeze the juice of a lemon, and mix a teaspoon of honey. Drink this lemon tea two times a day. It offers relief from nasal congestion and throat infections.
Castor oil is well-known in the beauty world. Many people use it in their beauty regime due to its anti-oxidant properties. The oil from castor seeds is also known for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. So, it discourages the growth of nasal polyps that can cause loss of smell. It is also effective in reducing other symptoms like inflammation and swelling developing due to cough and cold. So, it can re-establish your sense of smell. In Ayurveda, Nasya treatment (instillation of oil through your nasal route) using a drop of warm castor oil can offer relief. You can practice it twice a day (morning as well as night) to get effective results.
Drinking hot water mixed with mint leaves can offer relief from flu-like symptoms, cough, and nasal congestion. Mint leaves contain methanol, the bio-active constituent, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It plays a crucial role in alleviating cough as well as flu symptoms triggering the congestion of your chest cavity, throat, and nose. To see results, you need to boil at least ten to fifteen mint leaves in a cup of water. Then, strain the mixture and drink it. For added benefits, you can add a spoon of honey. This mixture helps restore your sense of smell by opening the blocked nose.
Ginger For Anosmia
Ginger has gingerol as its active constituent. It is responsible for the characteristic aroma as well as the flavor of ginger. This has the power to stimulate your taste buds and improve your sense of smell. It is a natural expectorant with antimicrobial properties. It also has pain-relieving properties. So, ginger can offer relief from the infection in your nasal passage. It can clear out the rheum particles congesting your nose. Therefore, it can reverse the temporary loss of smell. You can chew ginger or brew tea with ginger root to enhance the sense of smell.
Coping And Support When You Suffer From Anosmia
The inability to detect smell can affect your mental health. It has a profound psychological effect that needs addressing. In most cases, people who are battling the condition for a long time have better-coping skills. Those who have lost their sense of smell recently need to wade the difficult time with some patience and other coping skills.
Overcome Victimization With Assistance From Support Groups
Due to the inability to detect odors, you feel victimized and social vulnerability. It becomes difficult to stay in a group and talk about things like new perfume or good food. It can result in unhappiness. So, people who suffer permanent loss of smell, feel helpless when they cannot change the circumstances. In such cases, talking to a professional about mental issues will help you cope with it better. To cope with the problem better, you can find support groups addressing the issue.
Keep Yourself And Others Safe
When you suffer from loss of smell, it is difficult to detect certain issues at home like a gas leak from faulty appliances. So, to keep yourself and others safe, you need to maintain caution. Ensure all gas appliances are switched off after use. If possible, you can change from gas appliances to electrical to prevent any unwanted issues. Lack of smell can also make it difficult to detect smoke due to fire accidents. So, you need to fit your home with fire alarms. You need to check it every week to ensure it is working properly.
Avoid Food Poisoning
Since it is not possible to tell whether your food is good or spoiled due to the partial or complete inability to smell food, you need to depend on others. Your friends or family members can help in smelling the food and ensuring you never eat spoiled food. To avoid such issues, you need to check the expiry date of the products. Never use it beyond the date of expiry. If you are refrigerating food, then you need to label it when you have opened it. You can use your vision food to check for spoiled food. Discoloration of food can indicate the food is spoiled.
Maintain Personal Hygiene
You cannot smell your body odor due to anosmia. So, you need to maintain personal hygiene to avoid any embarrassment. Take a bath or shower daily. Wear fresh clothes after bath. If you sweat after an intense workout or physical activity, then take a shower. Maintaining good personal hygiene will help avoid self-consciousness.
Talk To Your Employer
If you work in a field where a sense of smell is important, then you need to talk to your employer regarding your condition. It is essential to take necessary action to ensure the loss of smell does not affect your job.
Maintain Nutrition Levels
Complex flavors in food become difficult to enjoy when you suffer from loss of smell. So, the loss of smell can affect your taste buds. It results in a loss of appetite. If you are not getting enough nutrition, then you need to discuss it with your doctor. Weigh yourself regularly to check if you have lost weight. Set reminders to have your meals. You can try cooking food with ingredients that will stimulate your taste buds. You can also choose colorful ingredients to invoke your interest in food.
These coping steps will help you live with the condition without suffering from any complications. It is better to talk with your doctor and get the necessary suggestions for improving the quality of life.
Anosmia Prevention Steps
Is it possible to prevent losing a sense of smell? While you cannot prevent the loss due to advanced age, other external causes triggering the condition are preventable. You can follow the steps suggested below:
Avoid Nasal Decongestants
When you have a runny nose, you immediately use a nasal decongestant. The pharmaceutical drug can relieve nasal congestion developing in the upper respiratory tract. The OTC medication contains phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine as its active ingredient. But, using the product for more than a week can cause repeated nasal congestion. It will only result in a loss of smell in the future. So, use the nasal decongestants as directed. Never take it more frequently.
Evade Polluted Area
Staying in a highly polluted area for a long time can result in damage to olfactory sensitivity. Olfactory sensitivity refers to the concentration of odor required for you to smell it. Due to the damage caused by air pollution, you find it difficult to distinguish between different smells. So, try to stay away from such a polluted area.
Restrict Pesticide Exposure
Over a few decades, farmers are using pesticides to increase productivity. Agricultural pesticides have become a common item in most people’s homes living in rural areas in most of the developing countries. As it is easily available, many people are exposed to the pesticide. Environmental toxins can cause olfactory disorders. It can result in irreversible loss of smell. So, you need to limit pesticide exposure. Take precautions to store it and maintain safety guidelines while using it for your crops.
If you smoke, then it is better to quit the habit for your well-being. Quitting the habit is also essential when you face trouble with your sense of smell. Smokers are more likely to suffer poor smell compared to others. The risk increases by six times when you smoke. The condition is also affected by the amount you smoke a day. People who smoke two packs a day face suffer from damage compared to people who just smoke one pack. Smoking is one of the common causes associated with loss of smell. So, you need to quit the habit to restore the quality of life. If it is not possible to quit, then seek medical assistance to avoid smoking and safeguard your health.
Try To Avoid Brain Injury
Since the condition can occur due to sustaining a brain injury, you need to take precautions while undertaking such activities. Follow safety precautions like using a helmet or wearing a seat belt while playing dangerous sports or driving. Always take ample precautions before taking part in risky activities.
Anosmia may seem like a simple problem, but you need to take it seriously. Loss of smell can increase your risk of toxic exposure like rotting food, smoke, or gas leaks. It can put your health at risk. The condition can also take the enjoyment away from the simple pleasures of your life like tasty food and fragrance of flowers. See a doctor immediately to know the underlying reasons and get effective treatment to manage the condition. With medical intervention, you can prevent some of the conditions, triggering the problem.
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