Your ability to smell is an often-overlooked sense that is important to your survival. An inability to smell, known as anosmia, has been in the news lately due to its connection to COVID-19. Understanding the causes of this condition can help ensure you seek treatment when needed.
What Is Smell?
Your sense of smell is pretty simple. A substance, such as a flower, releases molecules. A molecule will travel up your nose and stimulate the olfactory cells, which will send information onto the brain. It is then that your brain identifies the specific smell.
Any damage or interference to this process can lead to a loss of smell. Common problems include:
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal blockage
- Damage to the nerve cells
Your ability to smell plays a large role in your sense of taste. Without smell, your taste buds are limited and can only detect a few flavors. While not dangerous, this can impact your quality of life.
Causes and Symptoms of Anosmia
The most obvious symptom of anosmia is an inability to smell. For some, this damage causes a change in the way certain things smell.
In addition to the above-mentioned problems that can interfere with your smelling processes, below are some of the less common causes:
- Exposure to chemicals
- Cocaine use
- Old age
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Radiation treatment
How Is Anosmia Diagnosed?
If you experience an inability to smell for longer than a week or two, you should seek medical attention.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam, looking inside your nose with a lighted instrument to see if a growth is impairing your ability to smell or if there is an infection.
If no cause is identified, further testing such as a CT scan may be ordered to get a better look.
Treatment for Loss of Smell
The treatment of your condition depends on your diagnosis. Decongestants may be ordered to help open up your nasal passage. If your congestion gets worse, this is a sign of an infection and your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
Surgery may be ordered to remove a polyp or growth.
To learn more about anosmia or to schedule an appointment with an ear, nose and throat physician, contact the experts at Charleston ENT & Allergy today.