Anosmia or loss of smell: what can cause it?

Anosmia is loss of smell. It is not a common symptom, but those who suffer from it have altered their quality of life, since they cannot perceive reality as it is. We tell you more in this article.

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Anosmia refers to the complete loss of the sense of smell . Later we will see what situations can cause it. It is known that it is not a very common condition in adults, although it is the mildest form of decreased sense of smell, called hyposmia. Anosmia in newborns is not very common – congenital anosmia.

This inability to detect odors not only affects the possibility of enjoying pleasant and pleasant aromas, be it the aroma of flowers, a rich perfume, a cup of coffee or a favorite food. It can also put the person in danger due to the inability to detect potentially harmful odors, such as chemicals, gas leaks or spoiled food.

In addition, the loss of smell also affects the sense of taste. Both senses, that is, smell and taste, interact to distinguish certain flavors.

In itself, it is not a serious condition, but it may be part of the symptoms of a major disease. Anosmia, as we will see immediately, alters the quality of life.

Anosmia as a problem

Loss of smell prevents you from enjoying some of life’s pleasures, so this can lead to frustration, or even depression, in some people suffering from anosmia. In short, there is a decrease in the quality of life .

Sometimes it can cause changes in eating habits . This leads to weight loss, sometimes, and eventual malnutrition due to the lack of taste perception in the food. The person loses interest in food because he does not perceive his taste.

At the other extreme, you can be overweight . There is also a risk of increased blood pressure due to excess salt added to the diet, in order to add flavor to the food.

Anosmia can generate depression because it does not allow to enjoy pleasant smells

Read on: The sense of smell

How do we feel smells?

The layer that lines the nose internally is called the mucous membrane. In this membrane there are receptors in charge of detecting odors and sending the information through the neurons to the brain.

When breathing, there are microscopic molecules that are detached from the different substances that surround us and that contact the receptors in charge of detecting odors. Once there, the information continues to the brain, where the odor will be identified.

In turn, information from the sense of taste will also reach the brain , and both will help to identify many flavors. Without the characteristic odor of each food, the flavors can seem unattractive. In addition, touch and sight also participate in the identification of flavors.

Find out more: What does your sense of smell say about your health?

What can cause anosmia or loss of smell?

Let’s see some of the causes that may be behind anosmia or loss of smell:

  • Nose and upper respiratory tract conditions: suchas colds, sinusitis, flu, seasonal allergies .
  • Brain injuries
  • Nasal tumors or polyps
  • Smoking.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: suchas Alzheimer’s disease , multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease .
  • Consumption of some medications:some antibiotics and antihypertensives.
  • Chemical exposure:either insecticides or solvents that can damage the nasal mucous membrane.
  • Radiation:that which is located in the head and neck region.

It should be noted that normal aging can cause a decrease or even loss of smell. This is explained by the decrease in the neurons that send the information from the receptors that detect odors to the brain. This loss may increase as the years go by.

The causes of anosmia are varied, and range from the use of certain medications to the common cold

Can anosmia be treated?

Anosmia or loss of smell is not a disease in itself, so it does not have a specific treatment.  Its approach is based on detecting what the cause is and treating it, if this is possible.

Doctors can treat conditions of the upper respiratory tract and nose, can advise on smoking cessation, remove polyps or tumors, and what corresponds to each cause. Sometimes it will be a temporary condition, and therefore reversible , and at other times it will be a chronic and irreversible condition.

Looking for the cause of anosmia, the intention is to reverse it, although partial or complete recovery of the sense of smell is not always achieved . It is worth noting the importance of implementing psychological support in those cases that require it.

If you have doubts or have perceived symptoms compatible with the lack of sense of smell, or a decrease in it, make an inquiry. The most appropriate would be to contact a nose, throat and ear specialist to start the tests.


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