I seem to have lost my sense of smell. Is there anything to be concerned about, other than the fact that I can’t smell? Is there anything that I can do to remedy the condition? Who would I go to see about such a thing?
You may be surprised to learn that this problem is not uncommon. More than 200,000 Americans see a doctor about smell or taste problems each year.
Some people may trivialize it, but loosing your sense of smell, known as anosmia, can have significant effects on your life and well-being. For instance, your sense of smell might warn you of a fire, gas leak or toxic chemical fumes. It might keep you from eating food that has gone bad. For some people, it can mean the loss of a job –- consider the plight of a chef or a wine taster.
If you lose your sense of smell, do not brush it off. Call your primary care physician and ask for a referral to an ear, nose and throat physician. While a viral infection is the most common cause of this malady, other more serious problems must be ruled out. For more information, contact the American Academy of Otolarongology — Head and Neck Surgery.
Many, many things can cause anosmia and treatment must address the cause, if it can be found. Among the possible causes are:
- respiratory viruses, such as the flu
- head injury
- some medications
- certain chemicals
- polyps, or growths, in the nasal passages
- radiation treatment for head and neck cancers
- brain or pituitary tumors
- heredity — some people are born with it
In some cases, such as respiratory infections, the anosmia may be temporary and the sense of smell will return when nasal inflammation subsides. In other cases, effective anosmia treatment may remain elusive. But there are quite a few approaches that may be tried with varying degrees of success.
As to what kind of doctor to see, you should start with your primary care physician. If the problem isn’t resolved and you need a referral, look for a doctor or healthcare facility with extensive experience in treating smell and taste disorders.