Facts about anosmia

anosmia causes and treatmentWhat’s that smell? Whether it’s something that evokes a warm happy feeling like freshly baked bread, or the less than appealing garbage truck passing by, our nose knows. But if you suffer from anosmia, it’s unlikely you’d be able to pick up the scents.

Anosmia is the inability to smell. Smell is just one part of our five major senses – the others are hearing, sight, touch and taste. When all the senses work together we are given a complete experience, but when one sense is not available, we often lose out.


You might have had temporary anosmia when you were sick. But once the illness passes you’re right back to smelling again. People who have anosmia for the long-haul are affected in different ways. For example, not being able to smell can affect how things taste.

Causes of anosmia

anosmia causesThere are a few different causes of anosmia. If a person is born without the ability to smell this is referred to as congenital anosmia. Other common causes of anosmia include:

  • head injury
  • nasal or sinus infection
  • upper respiratory viral infection
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • idiopathic anosmia – no cause is ever found even after testing for potential causes
  • Medical conditions – liver failure, thyroid problems etc.
  • Aging
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Radiation
  • Nasal polyps
  • Certain medications.

Symptoms of anosmia include a change or loss in smell. For example an odor that was once familiar may change, or never return.

Treatment and complications

anosmia treatmentThe cause of anosmia will determine treatment options. If anosmia is caused by congestion, either by cold or allergy, then treating the cold and allergy will treat the anosmia. If anosmia is caused by nasal polyps, the polyps will have to be surgically removed. If medication is the cause, your doctor will need to find you an alternative.
Often, the older the age of the patient, the more difficult it becomes to treat anosmia.

If you or someone you know has anosmia there are some precautions to consider to live a healthy, normal life. Some hazards are identified by odor. For example a gas leak is commonly detected by smell. If you can’t smell it is important to ensure fire detectors are installed on every floor and room, among other alternative precautions. In regards to food, always make sure expiry dates are visible as someone with anosmia cannot simply smell if the food item has spoiled or not.

By taking these necessary precautions it is possible to live well even without the ability to smell.

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