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Anosmia (Loss Of Smell): Causes, Complications, Diagnosis & Treatment

The sense of smell is something all of us take for granted - well why shouldn't one (and that's where you are wrong). Losing the sense of smell can be quite difficult, where you would not be able to sense the smell of anything and in medical terms, the condition is termed as anosmia.

Anosmia is the partial or complete loss of the sense of smell, which can be temporary or permanent. The condition is not life-threatening but can pose massive limitations in the life of an individual affected by it.


Individuals affected by anosmia may not be able to fully taste foods. This, in turn, can lead to healthy weight loss and malnutrition, as well as irritation and sadness with the way the condition is affecting one's quality of life [1] .

Causes Of Anosmia

Nasal congestion from a cold, allergy, sinus infection or poor air quality is the most common cause of the condition.

Apart from the aforementioned, the following also causes anosmia [2] [3] .

  • Injury to the nose and smell nerves from surgery or head trauma
  • Old age
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Congenital conditions
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Certain medications such as heart medications, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, antidepressants
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as pesticides or solvents
  • Nasal polyps
  • Radiation treatment of head and neck cancers
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Bony deformity inside your nose
  • Acute sinusitis (sinus infection)
  • Common cold
  • Hay fever
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Schizophrenia
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Non-allergic rhinitis
  • Huntington's disease

The causes of anosmia, as aforementioned, can be classified into different groups depending upon the location or part of the body affected by it and the classifications are as follows [4] :

  • Damage to your brain or nerves
  • Obstructions of your nasal passages
  • Irritation to the mucous membranes lining the nose

Symptoms Of Anosmia

The sign which indicates that one has developed this condition is obvious - the loss of smell. For some people, a change in the way things smell can be noticed in the initial stages of the condition [5] .

Complications Of Anosmia

With the loss of the sense of smell, life can get quite difficult for individuals affected by the condition. Some of the complications related to the condition are as follows [6] :

  • Lack of appetite
  • Unhealthy weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Depression

Diagnosis Of Anosmia

Loss of smell caused by colds, allergies or sinus infections usually clears up on its own after a few days, but if it doesn't, you must consult a doctor immediately [7] .

The doctor will check for a polyp or growth, which may be impairing your ability to smell. They will also check for the possibilities of infections. To understand the condition more clearly, a CT scan will be advised [8] .

Treatment For Anosmia

The medical care provided for the condition will be dependent on the cause. As mentioned before, if the loss of smell occurs with a cold, allergy, or sinus infection, it typically will clear up on its own in a few days [2] .

Treatments that can help relive anosmia caused by nasal irritation include the following [9] :

  • Antibiotics
  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines
  • Steroid nasal sprays

If the condition is caused by polyps, surgery would be required - which will help in removing the obstruction causing the blockage of smell.

Some of the other means of treatment used for releiving the condition are reducing exposure to nasal irritants and allergens and cessation of smoking [10] .

View Article References  
  1. [1]   Boesveldt, S., Postma, E. M., Boak, D., Welge-Luessen, A., Schöpf, V., Mainland, J. D., ... & Duffy, V. B. (2017). Anosmia—a clinical review. Chemical senses, 42(7), 513-523.
  2. [2]   Rees, R., Macfarlane, G., Gane, S., Philpott, C., Noyce, A., & Schrag, A. (2019). Risk of Parkinson’s in idiopathic anosmia.
  3. [3]   Forni, P. E., & Wray, S. (2015). GnRH, anosmia and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism–where are we?. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 36, 165-177.
  4. [4]   Alkelai, A., Olender, T., Haffner‐Krausz, R., Tsoory, M. M., Boyko, V., Tatarskyy, P., ... & Cohn, E. (2016). A role for TENM1 mutations in congenital general anosmia. Clinical genetics, 90(3), 211-219.
  5. [5]   Koutroumpa, F. A., Monsempes, C., François, M. C., De Cian, A., Royer, C., Concordet, J. P., & Jacquin-Joly, E. (2016). Heritable genome editing with CRISPR/Cas9 induces anosmia in a crop pest moth. Scientific reports, 6, 29620.
  6. [6]   Tarakad, A., & Jankovic, J. (2017). Anosmia and ageusia in parkinson's disease. In International review of neurobiology (Vol. 133, pp. 541-556). Academic Press.
  7. [7]   Jiang, R. S., Twu, C. W., & Liang, K. L. (2015). Medical treatment of traumatic anosmia. Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery, 152(5), 954-958.
  8. [8]   Alkelai, A., Olender, T., Dode, C., Shushan, S., Tatarskyy, P., Furman-Haran, E., ... & Milgrom, R. (2017). Next-generation sequencing of patients with congenital anosmia. European Journal of Human Genetics, 25(12), 1377.
  9. [9]   Bakker, K., Catroppa, C., & Anderson, V. (2016). Anosmia and olfactory outcomes following paediatric traumatic brain injury. Brain injury, 30(2), 191-198.
  10. [10]   Sailani, M. R., Jingga, I., MirMazlomi, S. H., Bitarafan, F., Bernstein, J. A., Snyder, M. P., & Garshasbi, M. (2017). Isolated congenital anosmia and CNGA2 mutation. Scientific reports, 7(1), 2667.

    Read more about: loss of smell anosmia
    Story first published: Sunday, October 13, 2019, 10:00 [IST]
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