Most people are used to losing their sense of smell temporarily — often from colds or allergies. But what happens when that sense is gone for longer?
What is ANOSMIA?
It’s the medical term for the loss of smell. Anosmia can be temporary or permanent, and it also can be sign of another ailment.
Because anosmia can be related to a diverse set of other conditions, you’ll want to call your doc if you can’t smell for more than a few days — especially if your nose is acting up when you don’t have a cold or congestion-causing allergies.
Causes of anosmia can include:
- Issues with the nasal lining. Besides the common cold, ailments like sinus infections and hay fever can irritate your mucous membranes, diminishing your ability to smell.
- Nasal blockages. When air can’t flow freely through your nose, you often can’t smell as clearly. Nasal polyps, bone deformities or certain types of tumors can block the nose. A doctor can help identify the source of the blockage.
- Brain or nerve damage. In some cases, anosmia is linked to conditions that are important to treat early. Factors that affect the brain and nerves — conditions ranging from malnutrition to diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease — can be linked to loss of smell. A doctor’s consultation can help point to the underlying cause.
About half of anosmia cases can be treated, depending on the root cause. For cases more permanent, certain oral medications, nasal sprays and even smell therapy can prove helpful.
Beyond treating the physical symptoms of anosmia, it’s important to deal with the mental, emotional and lifestyle concerns, too. Sense of smell is closely linked to taste, so anosmia can make meals less enjoyable — and even lead to malnutrition.
Anosmia can be linked to depression, and it can reduce the risk of noticing hazards like natural-gas leaks. Last but not least, studies have shown lower dating satisfaction in both men and women born with anosmia, possibly because growing research suggests that certain emotional cues are transmitted through smell.