Loss of smell — anosmia (an-OHZ-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.
Although loss of smell can sometimes be a symptom of a serious condition, it isn't necessarily serious itself. Still, an intact sense of smell is necessary to fully taste foods. Loss of smell could cause you to lose interest in eating, which could lead to weight loss, malnutrition or even depression.
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. In particular, if you're over age 60, you're more likely to lose your sense of smell.
Feb. 08, 2011
- Mann NM, et al. Anatomy and etiology of taste and smell disorders. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov. 15, 2010.
- NIH senior health: Problems with smell. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/problemswithsmell/aboutproblemswithsmell/01.html. Accessed Nov. 15, 2010.
- Smell and taste abnormalities. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec08/ch089/ch089f.html. Accessed Nov. 15, 2010.
- Smell disorders. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/smelltaste/smell.asp. Accessed Nov. 15, 2010.
- Olfactory dysfunction. In: Lalwani AK. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=2824607. Accessed Nov. 16, 2010.
- Klinefelter syndrome. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/klinefelter_syndrome.cfm. Accessed Nov. 15, 2010.
- Kallman syndrome. Genetics Home Reference. http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/kallmann-syndrome. Accessed Nov. 15, 2010.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/wernicke_korsakoff/wernicke-korsakoff.htm. Accessed Nov. 16, 2010.
- Information for patients about Paget's disease of bone. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Pagets/patient_info.asp. Accessed Nov. 16, 2010.
- Frontotemporal dementia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/picks/picks.htm. Accessed Nov. 16, 2010.
- Multiple system atrophy with orthostatic hypotension information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/msa_orthostatic_hypotension/msa_orthostatic_hypotension.htm. Accessed Nov. 16, 2010.
- Sjogren's syndrome. American College of Rheumatology. http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/sjogrens.asp. Accessed Nov. 16, 2010.