Loss of smell — anosmia (an-OZ-me-uh) — can be partial or complete, although a complete loss of smell is fairly rare. Loss of smell can also be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.

Loss of smell is rarely a symptom of a serious condition. Still, an intact sense of smell is necessary to fully taste and enjoy food. Loss of smell could cause you to lose interest in eating, which could possibly lead to weight loss, malnutrition or even depression.

The common cold is a frequent cause for a partial, temporary loss of smell. Chronic sinus infection also may result in a loss of smell. Other obstructions in the nasal passages, such as polyps, also may cause at least a partial loss of smell. Normal aging is often the cause of a progressive, complete, and permanent loss of smell.

Loss of smell caused by colds, allergies or sinus infections usually clears up on its own after a few days. If this doesn't happen, consult your doctor so that he or she can rule out more-serious conditions.

Loss of smell can sometimes be treated, depending on the cause. Your doctor can give you an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection, or remove obstructions that are blocking your nasal passage.

In other cases, anosmia can be permanent. After age 60, in particular, you're at greater risk of losing your sense of smell.

Apr. 10, 2014