Anosmia is a disorder that leads to the loss of smell and, in turn, the loss of taste.
In very rare instances, anosmia occurs at birth, a condition known as congenital anosmia. It's often found without any other symptoms and might be caused by the olfactory system not developing properly. This type of anosmia cannot be treated.
In other instances, complete or partial anosmia can result as a complication from another illness, such as nasal and sinus disease, an upper respiratory viral infection or an injury to the head. Other more common conditions like malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have also been linked with anosmia.
Complications and Treatment
Though the loss of smell doesn’t sound devastating at first glance, it can have a major impact on those who have it. It greatly affects the tastes of food and drink, and it robs individuals of a warning system in relation to things like smoke or gas leaks. Many people with anosmia can also develop depression and other psychological issues related to their loss of the sense of smell.
When anosmia is related to an illness like a sinus infection, it will often pass as the illness itself goes away. Other times, a doctor can remove an obstruction from the nose to help treat anosmia.
In other instances, however, anosmia cannot be treated. Counseling is sometimes helpful for people as they cope with the reality of chronic anosmia. Other self-care strategies are important for preserving safety for anyone with this condition, such as installing multiple smoke detectors at home, using electric appliances rather than gas and carefully checking the expiration dates on food before consumption.
SOURCES: Anosmia Foundation; Office of Rare Diseases Research, U.S. National Institutes of Health