Loss of Smell: The Causes and How to Treat Anosmia

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Loss of SmellThe aroma of your favorite cooked meal. The smell of fresh cut grass or the sweet nectar from a flower. These can heighten your senses, and bring to mind memories of spending time with family and friends. What if you no longer had your sense of smell? Could you imagine living in a world without being able to enjoy wonderful aromas, or be alerted to danger such as the smell of smoke? Anosmia is the loss of smell, and it can be a temporary or permanent disorder, depending on the cause. We will look at the top anosmia causes, as well as possible treatments for loss of smell.

We have the ability to smell from the nerve cells in our nose called olfactory cells. These cells detect molecules distributed from objects and send a message to our brain. Sometimes, this message can be met with interference from damage or injury to the cells or nasal blockage.

Causes and Complications of Loss of Smell

By experiencing anosmia, you can expect a change in the way things taste as well. Our taste buds are structured to detect the five main elements of flavors on their own, and rely on our sense of smell to guide through distinct flavors. Anosmia can have a detrimental effect on your life, and the underlying cause needs to be discovered to properly treat and improve, where possible. It may stem from damage to the inner lining of the nose, damaged brain nerves, or even the aging process itself.

1. Upper Respiratory Infection

The common cold can lead to a temporary or permanent loss of smell. This can occur from viral damage to the olfactory receptor cells.

2. Sinus Infection

The inflammation of your sinus cavity by an infection can greatly cause a change in your sense of smell. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reports more than 30 million Americans suffer from this type of infection, which is known as sinusitis.

3. Nasal Polyps

These benign growths are found in the inner lining of your nose and are usually caused by infections, cystic fibrosis, hay fever, or asthma. Nasal polyps may cause a blockage and hinder your sense of smell.

4. Adenoids                                                                     

Your sense of smell can be affected by the size of your adenoids. Located in the back of the throat, above the tonsils, the adenoids help to prevent and fight any infections that enter the body. There is a chance these can swell and become enlarged, causing issues with the sense of smell.

5. Brian Tumor

As the nerves in our brain respond to the receptors from the nose, damaged cells in the brain can affect our sense of smell. As the tumor grows in the small space of the skull, it may cause inflammation and crush cells. This can take place with benign and cancerous tumors.

6. Head Injury

A blunt force to the head can cause damage to your scalp, skull, or brain, leading to damaged nerve cells. Even trauma such as a mild concussion can cause severe damage.

7. Neurological Disorders

Several neurological disorders can have a direct effect on nose receptors to cause anosmia. Parkinson’s disease, forms of dementia, and severe brain injuries may lead to loss of smell. A result of some neurological disorders is malnutrition, which is linked to anosmia. An addiction to some drugs, such as cocaine, may also destroy the nose and brain cells that trigger our smell receptors

Anosmia Diagnosis 

To determine whether you have anosmia, your health professional will perform specific tests, starting with a detailed medical history investigation. You may be asked about a history of nasal congestion, runny nose, allergy reactions, head injuries, infections, drug problems, and if you have had regular exposure to environmental pollutants such as chemicals. You will also have a physical exam to check for nasal polyps or inflammation. Other tests may include a psychophysical assessment where you identify odors, or a nervous system examination. This will identify any damaged nerves and it may expand to a computerized tomography scan (CT scan), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

For some, their sense of smell never developed as they were born with congenital anosmia. This can be caused by a genetic disorder such as Kallmann syndrome, or may have no direct cause behind it. It may be due to a problem during development of the olfactory system. As of now, there is no treatment or cure for congenital anosmia.

Anosmia Treatment

Not all anosmia cases are treatable, and for many, the treatment is linked to the underlying health condition that is causing the issue. The options can range from a wait-and-see approach to using nasal sprays, antihistamines, and steroids. Surgery is usually performed for nasal polyps, and to remove a blockage such as the case with an endoscopic sinus surgery.

For anosmia cases where no treatment is available, patients can make lifestyle changes to ensure they live a better and safer life. Since anosmia can hinder your ability to smell smoke from a house fire, it is suggested you install smoke alarms in every room of your home. Daily tasks such as cooking food and preparing meals from leftovers is a hardship, since the sufferer can’t smell if food has gone bad.

Cases of anosmia due to colds, infections, and temporary blockage may benefit from several home remedies.

1. Steam

Congestion is no match for the power of steam inhalation. Using a bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head and sides of face as you lean over the bowl for several minutes. Breath in the steam at a steady, slow rhythm.

2. Lemon

Another good congestion buster is the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon. Its properties will relieve the blockage, as well as help prevent infection. Using one lemon, squeeze the juice into a glass of warm water and honey. Drink this solution two to three times each day for best results.

3. Garlic

The antiviral and antibacterial properties of garlic target congestion of blocked nasal passages. Its anti-inflammatory component alleviates swollen passages, and prevents recurrence and infection. Drink a glass of hot water mixed with salt and four cloves of ground garlic.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

This home product is great for easing sinus congestion. Combine two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of baking powder in a glass of water. Prepare and drink this mixture twice a day.

5. Coriander

Relieve the congestion that is causing anosmia with coriander spice. Take three tablespoons each day during the time of the symptom.

6. Castor Oil

The anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties of castor oil will combat nasal polyps and prevent blockage of the passages. Apply one drop of warmed castor oil at the base of each nostril twice a day—once in the morning and once at bedtime.

7. Carom Seeds

Target inflammation, infection, and blockages with the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory components of carom seeds. Heat a cloth filled with one teaspoon of the seeds, and hold it near the nose to breath in deep, long breaths of the aroma. It is recommended to repeat this every night at bedtime.

8. Pumpkin Seeds

For those people suffering from anosmia as a result of zinc deficiency, the zinc-enriched properties of pumpkin seeds are suggested. Enjoy munching on these healthy seeds.

9. Sweet Potato

To receive the required amount of vitamin A to help with anosmia, you can eat sweet potatoes. You can boil or bake the potatoes, as long as you consume large quantities.

10. Ginger Syrup

Use the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger to fight anosmia. Create the tasty syrup with chopped ginger cardamom, water, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and drink the syrup once a day.

Losing one’s sense of smell can lead to further complications, both with your health and in life-threatening conditions. The diagnosis of anosmia may be a temporary condition due to infection or nasal blockage, and this can be treated and cured in some cases. A permanent situation of anosmia requires one to make lifestyle changes to learn to live without the sense of smell.


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