Out of all the five senses, sense of smell is perhaps the most powerful. Smell helps to distinguish between good odor and bad odor. Sense of smell is necessary to live a normal life. Anosmia is a medical term used for loss of smell just as deafness is for hearing. Imagine how life would be if you have lost sense of smelling things. You may simultaneously lose sense of taste, and perhaps flood of natural odors. With anosmia you may be able to taste sweet, bitter, sour food, but you may not be able to enjoy the flavor.
Anosmia can occur due to minor reasons such as cold and blocked nose. It can also occur due to more serious causes that may damage the nerve endings in the nose. Fortunately, anosmia in majority of people is temporary; once the cause is addressed a person’s smell returns to normal. However, sometimes the condition may prolong for days and months. This may be a sign of serious medical condition. Prolonged loss of smell needs careful assessment and treatment depending on the cause.
What Are The Causes Of Anosmia?
Inside in the posterior aspect of the nose lies the olfactory membrane which is innervated by nerve receptors.These nerve cells send messages of various odors directly to the brain. Upon receiving the message, brain assesses and distinguishes various odors. Any type of interruption or damage in the olfactory lining, nerve receptor or brain will lead to loss of smell. The most common example is stuffy nose caused due to cold.
Here are several other causes of anosmia:
- Upper respiratory tract infection such as cold, sinusitis, chronic rhinitis all can block the nose and affect the olfactory membrane which is the main site for carrying smell to brain.
- Blockage of nasal passage caused due to nasal polyps, nasal tumor or bony deformity such as deviated nasal septum can affect the person’s sense of smelling.
- Injury to nasal membrane or the nerves during any nasal surgery can lead to loss of smell, in some cases permanently.
- Exposure to fumes of certain toxic acids and chemicals.
- Cocaine abuse.
- As people become old they lose sense of smell, just like hearing. Usually after the age of 70 the sense of smell begins to reduce.
- Traumatic injury to head, head surgery, Parkinson disease, stroke, are also the causes for loss of smell.
- Certain drugs can also cause anosmia. Drugs such as phenothiazines, estrogen containing drugs, amphetamines, certain anti hypertensive drugs etc.
Treatment Options For Anosmia
The treatment of anosmia depends on cause. In most cases the patient is able to recover his sense of smell within few days or weeks once the underlying cause is cured. For example, patient suffering from cold and allergic rhinitis may not need any treatment. Soon as his stuffy nose gets cleared after few days, he is able to smell normally. Use of decongestants in some cases for few days helps to open up the blocked nasal passage. If sinusitis is the cause a short course of antibiotics may be useful in curing the infection.
Nasal polyps may require surgical excision for treating anosmia. Nasal polyps and deviated nasal septum frequently block the nose. As a result these patients often have partial or complete loss of smell. Surgery will be helpful in resuming the lost smell.
Often certain medications are blamed to cause anosmia. If you are taking any medications and suspect it to be the cause, talk to your doctor.
Home Remedies For Anosmia
Certain home remedies are also useful in regaining lost sense of smell. Garlic is one of them. Take few cloves of garlic and extract its juice. Mix half teaspoon of garlic in one teaspoon of honey and take the mixture twice in a day if your nose is congested. Garlic acts as a natural decongestant and anti inflammatory medicine which clears off mucus collected in the nasal passage.
Castor oil is beneficial in some cases, especially if anosmia is due to nasal polyps. Put one drop of castor oil in nostril before going to sleep and early in the morning after waking. It helps in reducing inflammation of the olfactory membrane which in turn will help in regaining smelling sense.