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Home / Health Insurance / Articles / Diseases / Loss of Smell or Anosmia: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Possibilities

Loss of Smell or Anosmia: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Possibilities

Team AckoJul 21, 2023

Our sense of smell stimulates our hunger while simultaneously functioning as a warning mechanism to avoid risks and pollutants. When an individual's sense of smell is lost or weakened, a condition known as Anosmia affects not just the pleasure of life but also their safety and well-being. People of all ages can suffer from this temporarily. However, long-term Loss of Smell is more likely in individuals over the age of 50. This article discusses what is Anosmia, its causes, and treatment possibilities.

Loss of Smell or Anosmia



What is Anosmia?

Anosmia can be defined as the loss of the sense of smell, either partially or completely. This loss could be either short-term or long-lasting. The sense of smell is an intricate process that involves the brain and nose connection. When a person smells an odour, air enters the nose and the odour molecules connect to receptors on the olfactory nerve, which senses smell.

These nerves are found in the epithelium of the olfactory nerves, the tissue that lines the nose cavity. When odour molecules in the environment stimulate these neurons, signals are sent to the brain. The brain absorbs olfactory information and converts it into a scent that can be identified.

Common irritants to the nose can cause temporary loss of smell. However, more serious diseases can result in permanent loss of smell. It is sometimes caused by old age.

The sense of smell is vital for overall health and nutrition because reduced feelings may contribute to a loss of appetite and malnutrition, particularly in older people. People with this condition may inadvertently consume soured or spoiled foods because they are unable to identify odours that indicate decomposition. This condition can lead to despair because it inhibits an individual's capacity to smell or taste.

What causes Anosmia?

The following are the most common causes of Anosmia.

1. Irritation in the nose

This can occur due to conditions like sinus infections, common cold, smoking, influenza, allergic rhinitis, or chronic congestion. Irritation in the mucous membrane lining of the nose causes a temporary loss of smell, which alleviates on its own.

2. Blockage 

It can also occur when something physically blocks air. Tumours, nasal polyps, bone malformations in the interior of the nose can cause this condition.

3. Brain or nerve damage

Inside the nose, receptors transmit information to the brain through nerves. If any component of this pathway gets harmed, Anosmia can result. This can be due to a variety of situations, which may include the following.

  • Old age

  • Brain tumours

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Certain drugs like blood pressure medication and antibiotics

  • Epilepsy

  • Brain or head injury or stroke

  • Radiation therapy

  • Alcoholism

Symptoms of Anosmia

People suffering from Anosmia cannot identify any smell. On the other hand, people who were born with this condition owing to variations in their genes may not be aware of their condition because they have never had the ability to sense smell.

Neurodegenerative illnesses, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, can cause a loss of the sense of smell. People suffering from neurodegenerative disorders should seek medical attention as soon as they notice a loss of their sense of smell. It is sometimes the first indication of neurodegenerative disorders.

When people lose their ability to smell, they are unable to detect warning odours in food and the environment. Patients may have a lower quality of life in terms of social contact, eating, and an overall sense of a healthy lifestyle.

What are the complications of Anosmia?

Anosmia patients might lose their interest in consuming food, which may result in malnutrition and weight loss. People with Anosmia must use smoke alarms in their houses at all times. They should also exercise caution when storing food and using natural gas because they may have difficulty identifying rotten food and gas leaks. 

Precautions should be taken involving the following.

  • Correct labelling of the foods with dates of expiration

  • Read instructions on chemicals such as kitchen cleansers and pesticides

  • Using electric equipment

Diagnosing Anosmia

It is impossible to estimate the loss of smell. You may be asked about your present symptoms by your doctor. Other procedures include inspecting your nose, performing a full physical examination, and inquiring about your medical history.

They may inquire regarding whether all or only certain types of odours are impacted and whether you are capable of identifying the taste of food. 

Your doctor may additionally do one or more of the following tests based on your response.

  • X-ray of the head

  • Nasal endoscopy to examine the inside of your nose

  • CT scans, which involve X-rays to produce a detailed image of the brain

  • MRI scans, which examine the brain using radio waves and magnets

Treatment of Anosmia

When deciding on the best treatment for a person suffering from Anosmia, doctors must select a treatment procedure that is appropriate for the cause of the condition.

  1. Some forms of Anosmia may resolve on their own without therapy. This can happen in 32 to 66% of people with an upper respiratory tract infection.

  2. For patients with Anosmia caused by sinonasal issues, surgery or corticosteroid medications may be recommended. Corticosteroid medications are administered either intravenously or orally.

  3. According to research, only topical intranasal steroids have been proven to be beneficial in allergic rhinitis, especially when combined with an intranasal antihistamine.

  4. It may be difficult for doctors to figure out if surgical procedures will help with Anosmia. However, endoscopic sinus surgery may help some people.

  5. People suffering from genetic abnormalities can be treated with cell and genetic therapy.

  6. If a person develops Anosmia induced by trauma or injury, doctors may recommend a zinc gluconate supplement.

  7. Treatments that may help resolve this condition caused by nasal irritation may include the following.

  • Decongestants

  • Antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections

  • Decreasing nasal irritants and allergen exposure

  • Quit smoking

8. The loss of smell caused by a nasal obstruction can be addressed by removing whatever is obstructing your nasal canal. This includes the removal of nasal polyps, realigning the nasal septum, or emptying the sinuses.

Preventing Anosmia

Because Anosmia is a sign of many medical disorders, it is not always preventable. However, there are several steps you may take to lower your risk.

  • Avoid toxic substances and surroundings

  • Quit smoking

  • When participating in contact sports, wear protective equipment because brain injuries might trigger the condition

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some FAQs related to Loss of smell or Anosmia.


What are the causes of Anosmia?

The most common cause is nasal congestion caused by a cold, allergy, sinus infection or poor quality of air. Other causes include nasal polyps, which are tiny noncancerous growths in the nose; sinuses that obstruct the nasal route, and nose and smell nerve injury after surgery or head trauma.

What is the best treatment for Anosmia?

The best treatment for Anosmia may include the following.

  • Corticosteroid medications

  • Topical intranasal steroids with an intranasal antihistamine

  • Endoscopic sinus surgery 

  • Zinc gluconate supplement

  • Decongestants

  • Antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections

  • Decreasing nasal irritants and allergen exposure

  • Surgery to remove nasal polyps

  • Reducing exposure to harmful chemicals

Can Anosmia be cured?

It is determined by the type of Anosmia you encounter. 


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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