Loss of smell; Anosmia
Impaired smell is the partial or total loss of the sense of smell.
The loss of smell can occur as a result of nasal congestion or blockage of the nose and isn't serious, but it can sometimes be a sign of a nervous system (neurological) condition.
Some loss of smell occurs with aging. In most cases, there is no obvious or immediate cause, and there is no treatment.
The sense of smell is often lost with disorders that prevent air from reaching the part of the nose where smell receptors are located (the cribriform plate, located high in the nose). These disorders may include nasal polyps, nasal septal deformities, and nasal tumors.
Other disorders that may cause a loss of the sense of smell include:
Many medications may change or decrease the ability to detect odors.
The sense of smell also enhances your ability to taste. Many people who lose their sense of smell also complain of a loss of the sense of taste. Most can still tell between salty, sweet, sour, and bitter tastes, which are sensed on the tongue. They may not be able to tell between other flavors. Some spices (such as pepper) may affect the nerves of the face and may be felt rather than smelled.
Leopold DA, Holbrook EH. Physiology of olfaction. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2005:chap 37.
Lafreniere D, Mann N. Anosmia: Loss of smell in the elderly. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2009 Feb 1;42(1):123-131.
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