7 Questions about Anosmia

Q: What exactly is anosmia?
A: Anosmia is a partial or total loss of the sense of smell.

Q: Who is most likely to suffer from anosmia?
A: It is more common among people in their 60s to 70s, as the olfactory nerve declines with age. It can be temporary or permanent.

Q: How is anosmia diagnosed?
A: A nasal endoscopy will rule out any obvious nose obstruction or localised diseases. If the endoscopy examination is normal, medical imaging of the sinuses and brain may be performed.

Q: How does anosmia affect taste?
A: As 70 to 80 percent of flavour in the food we consume comes from olfactory input, any loss of smell may lead to loss of taste.

Q: What causes anosmia?
A: As the cause is usually not obvious, evaluation involves excluding known causes in a process of elimination.
Possible causes include:
• Common cold and upper respiratory viruses including COVID-19
• Severe allergy of the nose
• Chronic sinusitis or nasal polyps, where there is projecting tissue growth
• Obstruction of the nasal passage from polyps, tumours or swollen nasal tissues
• Nose surgery that affects the nose lining
• Head injury
• Ageing or age-related diseases such as dementia
• Exposure to toxic fumes, chemicals or smoking
• Medications with side effects that include anosmia

In light of the current pandemic, any patient with anosmia should be evaluated for COVID-19.

Q: Is anosmia reversible?
A: That depends on its cause. While the prognosis is poorer due to age, the lack of obvious causes, or in cases where there is permanent damage to the nose or olfactory nerves, anosmia can be reversed in some cases. Anosmia caused by nose allergies, nasal polyps and sinusitis, sensitivity to drugs or chemicals, and trauma from head injury or nose-sinus surgery can potentially be reversed.

Q: How is anosmia treated?
A: Depending on the cause, treatment options for anosmia include:
• Avoidance of offending drugs, chemicals and exposure to toxic fumes
• For sinus-nose conditions, steroids, antihistamines or a nasal rinse
• Antibiotics for chronic sinus infections
• Surgery to remove the polyp or widen the nasal passage if there is an obvious mechanical obstruction to nasal passage airflow

This article is taken from our My Alvernia Magazine Issue #45. Click here to read the issue on our website.