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Anosmia:Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About anosmia – Loss of smell

The term ‘Anosmia’ means loss of smell perception. A person with anosmia is unable to smell any odours. This may result from some underlying disease of the nasal passages or damage to the nerve. Anosmia may be an associated feature of some inherited disorders.

Anosmia: Incidence, age and sex

Anosmia may be seen in any age group. It may be present since birth in some rare genetic disorder or may be acquired in the future due to underlying nasal disease. Both men and women are affected equally.

Signs and symptoms of anosmia: Diagnosis

An individual afflicted with anosmia is unable to detect any kind of odour. This can be temporary or permanent depending upon the causative factor. Anosmia may result in the loss of appetite which may be a result of failure to enjoy food aromas. Occasionally anosmia may also be associated with the loss of taste sensations which may exacerbate the loss of appetite. The condition of anosmia is more distressing than serious.

Causes and prevention of anosmia

Several causes can lead to a loss of smell, some of which may be localised to nasal passages. Any kind of swelling in the nasal passages, may obstruct the flow of odours, resulting in anosmia. This is commonly seen in persistent rhinitis where swelling occurs due to inflammation of the lining of the nose. Other problems like nasal polyps, deviated nasal septum, excessive use of nasal sprays and chronic sinusitis may also cause obstruction to the flow of odours. Anosmia caused by such disorders is temporary and the sense of smell returns to normal as the disease resolves.

Any problem in the ‘smell’ area of brain or damage to the ‘olfactory nerve’ which communicates between the nose and the brain may also lead to anosmia. Such conditions include brain tumour, head injury, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. A rare genetic disorder called Kallman syndrome - characterised by tall stature and deficiency of sex hormone - is also associated with anosmia.

Avoidance of excessive use of nasal spray, smoking cessation, avoidance of allergens causing allergic rhinitis may help in preventing anosmia.

Anosmia: Complications

The complications of anosmia may be distressing. There are no serious health concerns resulting from anosmia. At times, the loss of smell causes the inability to smell rotten food which may cause stomach problems by its ingestion. Occasionally it may become dangerous when one is not able to smell fire smoke.

Anosmia: Treatment

The doctor can establish the diagnosis of anosmia easily by making the affected individual detect different smells like that of perfume or coffee. Each nostril is checked separately before confirming the diagnosis. The doctor may advise further investigations to detect the cause of anosmia.

General measures like cessation of smoking, avoidance of suspected allergens which may cause allergic rhinitis are recommended. Nasal polyps and sinusitis should be treated promptly. Surgical correction of deviated nasal septum may be done if needed. Effective treatment of any underlying cause of anosmia is of vital importance.

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