“Olfactory dysfunction” is the clinical way of saying that your sense of smell is impaired. It can arise from a variety of causes and can profoundly influence your quality of life. The sense of smell, of course, determines the flavor of food and drink.
It also serves as an early warning system for the detection of environmental hazards, such as spoiled food, leaking natural gas, smoke, or airborne pollutants. The loss or distortions of smell sensation can adversely influence food preference, food intake and appetite.
The numbers are as such: about two million U.S. adults experience some type of olfactory dysfunction. One of the most common causes of loss of smell is an upper respiratory tract infection. After a viral infection, people often complain of smell loss. This loss of smell is often reversible, meaning you don’t actually have to live with it at all. Sometimes, though, people can develop “parosmia” (a distorted sense of smell), “phantosmia” (smelling things that aren’t there), or permanent damage of the olfactory system.
Treatments for Olfactory dysfunction
A new study honed in the common culprit, “post-viral olfactory dysfunction.” Researchers found that traditional Chinese acupuncture — where tiny needles are used to stimulate specific points in the body to elicit beneficial therapeutic responses — may be an effective treatment option for this condition.
Their study was published in the April 2010 issue of “Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery.”
As of now, there is no definitive treatment for post-viral loss of smell. That hasn’t stopped experts from trying. Studies have tested steroids, vitamin-B supplements, caroverine, alpha lipoic acid and many other drugs. In addition to these treatments, many patients are actively seeking out alternative means to deal with it, such as acupuncture.
In the new study, 15 patients who had post-viral loss of smell were treated with acupuncture in 10 sessions that lasted 30 minutes each. To test the patients’ sense of smell, researchers used special sticks that you smell. Effects of acupuncture were compared to those of matched pairs of people with the same condition, but who were treated with vitamin-B complex.
The results: eight patients treated with acupuncture improved their olfactory function compared to two in the vitamin-B group. Of course this is a small study, but still the benefits — more than half of the patients found success — suggest that the ancient wisdom of acupuncture might apply to your sniffer, too.