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Loss of smell (anosmia) can be both transient and permanent, what's more - there are patients who do not smell odors from birth. Anosmia can be caused by a large number of conditions, ranging from head injuries to neurodegenerative diseases or side effects of medications taken by the patient.

Total loss of smell( anosmia ) is an olfactory disorder that cannot be ignored. In the case of the senses, we usually appreciate the sense of sight or hearing more than smell, but this does not mean that smell is a sense of a secondary role for human life. While eating meals, we feel their taste mainly thanks to the sense of taste, however, the full reception of impressions related to eating food appears with the participation of the sense of smell. The sense of smell allows us to avoid threats - thanks to it we are able to sense the burning or leave the place where we can sense some potentially dangerous smells. Disturbances of smell can definitely make it difficult for patients to function normally. They have a different character, as the disturbances of the sense of smell can take the form of both a weakened perception of smells and a complete loss of smell (then called anosmia).

Loss of smell (anosmia): symptoms and consequences of the disorder

The main symptom of anosmia is, of course,inability to smell . Loss of smell can affect both nostrils, as well as only one - the second situation can be experienced especially when, for example, polyps are present only on one side of the nasal cavity. As a result of the loss of the sense of olfactory stimuli, patients may have a reduced appetite. This is due to the fact that in the case of an olfactory disorder, foods may taste differently. In people with anosmia, there may also be a decrease in libido - smell plays a very important role in sexual intercourse. It should be emphasized that the abovementioned difficulties are not experienced by people with congenital anosmia - after all, they do not feel smells from birth, so even the taste of food is perceived by them all the time only through the sense of taste. . Sometimes even the lives of patients can be compromised by this disorder. A he althy person will, for example, be able to smell smoke,suggesting the existence of some fire in the vicinity and prompting to flee to a safe place, a patient with anosmia of such a warning will simply not be able to pick up.

Loss of smell (anosmia): causes

The number of potential causes of anosmia is relatively large. Some of them lead to a permanent loss of smell, while others can lead to a temporary and transient loss of smell. The causes of anosmia can be:

  • changes related to aging (a natural phenomenon is the loss of smell in old age, but in some people it may even completely lose the sense of smell)
  • the use of certain medications (e.g. antidepressants or antiarrhythmic drugs, anosmia, especially in people who use nasal decongestants for a long time)
  • head injuries (especially those in which the structures of the olfactory nerve itself or the so-called olfactory bulb are damaged)
  • endocrine diseases (such as diabetes, Cushing's syndrome or hypothyroidism)
  • neurological conditions (e.g. multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease or dementia with Lewy bodies, and epilepsy and stroke)
  • smoking
  • drug use (the risk of loss of smell especially applies to nasal cocaine users)
  • sarcoidosis
  • asthma and allergic conditions (such as hay fever)
  • chronic sinusitis
  • presence of polyps in the nasal cavity
  • chronic alcohol abuse
  • undergoing radiation therapy in the head or neck area
  • poisoning (e.g. cadmium)
  • pernicious anemia and the related vitamin B12 deficiency
  • granulomatosis with polyangiitis (a condition formerly referred to as Wegener's granulomatosis)
  • myasthenia gravis
  • schizophrenia
  • renal or hepatic dysfunction
  • fibromyalgia
  • defects in the structure of the nose (e.g. curvature of the nasal septum)
  • deficiencies of various nutrients (e.g. zinc)
  • increased intracranial pressure
  • tumors of the central nervous system (anosmia can be caused especially by tumors developing within the frontal lobe of the brain)
  • colds and other infections of the upper respiratory tract

The above-mentioned causes of the acquired, i.e. developing already in the course of life, loss of smell.

Sometimes the causes of anosmia cannot be detected - in such a situation, patients are diagnosed with idiopathic loss of smell.

However, there are patients who never dothey had and will not be able to smell smells - we are talking about people suffering from congenital anosmia. Due to the fact that this disorder tends to be familial, genetic disorders are suspected of being involved in its development. Congenital anosmia can be a standalone problem, but it can also occur in syndromes such as Klinefelter's syndrome and Kalman's syndrome.

Loss of smell (anosmia): diagnostics

The way a patient's sense of smell works can be assessed relatively easily. For this purpose, simply substances with a distinctive smell are used. The sense of smell is examined simultaneously in both nostrils simultaneously, the perception of olfactory stimuli through individual nostrils is also examined. However, make sure that the patient's nostrils are not open before carrying out the olfactory assessment.

Other tests performed in patients suffering from loss of smell depend on the suspected cause of its occurrence. ENT or neurological examinations can be performed, as well as imaging examinations (such as, for example, magnetic resonance imaging of the head, which allows to detect changes in the paranasal sinuses or a neoplastic focus within the brain).

Loss of smell (anosmia): treatment

Whether anosmia can and should be treated at all depends on the cause of its occurrence. In the case of patients with congenital anosmia, medicine does not offer any means that would allow such patients to get to know the world of smells. Similarly, when the loss of smell is due to the aging process, such patients can no longer recover the lost sense of smell, while the information for other patients is more optimistic. Well, when anosmia is associated with an allergy or a cold or with sinusitis, treating these conditions allows the patients' sense of smell to be restored. Drugs that can help in this case include glucorticosteroids or antiallergic antihistamines. In patients with polyps in the nasal cavity, disorders may disappear as a result of surgery to remove them, as is the case with patients whose smell problems result from having a deviated nasal septum - surgery may also help them regain the correct perception of smells.

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