Understanding Your Loss of Smell

When a person loses their sense of smell, a condition known as anosmia arises. If you lose your sense of smell, it can be anything from a nuisance, to not being able to taste foods as well as you used to, or it can be dangerous if you're not able to smell something like a gas leak in your home.

What are Some of the Symptoms of Loss of Smell?

Anosmia can include a partial or total and complete loss of smell. It can also include a condition known as parosmia, which is when you can still detect smells, but they don't smell like what they used to smell like for you.

The loss of smell also will usually affect your sense of taste as it's dependent on your ability to smell. The loss of taste can have negative impacts that can include losing interest in eating, food tasting differently or lack of taste, and unexpected weight loss due to eating less.

What are Some of the Causes of Loss of Smell?

Common colds, sinus infections, and stuffy noses are common causes of a temporary loss of smell and will usually clear up within a few days. Other potential causes of a loss of smell can include the following:

  • Obstruction in the nasal cavity due to a foreign object or malformed nasal anatomy
  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Trauma to the head that causes brain or nerve damage
  • Tumors (malignant or benign)
  • Over-exposure to harmful chemicals or irritants
  • Old age
  • Hormonal problems
  • Radiation Therapy

What Should I do if I Lose my Sense of Smell?

If the loss of your sense of smell is accompanied by a cold, wait to see what happens when your cold clears up in a few days. If the loss of your sense of smell is unexplained, severe, or has lasted more than a couple days, you should visit an ENT specialist.

An ENT specialist will help to determine the underlying cause of the loss of your sense of smell and determine a path moving forward. Diagnosis will usually involve asking questions about when the symptoms started and if it's affected your taste in food. Tests may be performed such as an X-ray, CT scans, MRI scans, or a nasal endoscopy to look inside your nasal passages.

What are Treatment Options for Loss of Smell

The exact treatment method will depend on what your ENT specialist determines is the cause of the loss of your sense of smell. It may involve something simple like taking an over-the-counter decongestant or antihistamine to help clear up an infection. Surgical procedures can include removing foreign objects or nasal polyps that are blocking your nasal passages, or straightening the nasal septum.


All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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