Anosmia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment


Anosmia is a complete loss of the sense of smell. This loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. Without a sense of smell, you cannot fully taste foods, and even may find yourself in a dangerous situation unknowingly. It is most common in old-aged people. Anosmia usually isn’t serious, but it can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life. People with anosmia may lose interest in eating, which could possibly lead to weight loss, malnutrition or even depression.

After the age of 60, people will be at greater risk of losing their sense of smell. Taste and smell disorders send hundreds of thousands of Americans to the doctor each year. Any ongoing problems with smell should be checked out by a doctor.


Anosmia is frequently caused by swelling or blockage in the nose that prevents odors from getting to the top of the nose. In most cases, anosmia is a temporary nuisance caused by a cold with nasal congestion. Once the cold runs its course, a person’s sense of smell returns.

Besides, normal aging also causes a loss of smell, which may be progressive, becoming complete and permanent. In addition, anosmia can be a sign of more serious medical conditions.

There are some other typical causes:

  • Nasal polyps
  • Injury to the nose and smell nerves from surgery
  • Head trauma
  • Sinus infection
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Antibiotics, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory medication
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Radiation treatment of head and neck cancers
  • Congenital condition
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Hormonal disturbances


To diagnose this condition, the doctor will first perform a complete physical examination and ask about the patient’s health history. Your doctor will take a look inside your nose with a special instrument to see if a polyp or growth is impairing the ability to smell or if an infection is present. Further diagnostic testing may include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans, which use X-rays to create a detailed image of the brain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses radio waves and magnets to view the brain
  • X-rays of the skull
  • Nasal endoscopy to look inside your nose


Treatment for anosmia depends on the cause of the condition. There is no treatment currently available for people with congenital anosmia. Besides, for some elderly people, loss of smell can be permanent.

If it is caused by nasal congestion from a cold or allergy, treatment is usually not needed, and the problem will get better on its own. If a polyp or growth is present, surgery may be needed to remove the obstruction and regain the sense of smell. If people with a partial loss of the sense of smell, they can add concentrated flavoring agents to food to improve their enjoyment.

If anosmia is caused by nasal irritation, treatment options may include:

  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines
  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Antibiotics
  • Reducing exposure to nasal irritants and allergens
  • Cessation of smoking

Keywords: anosmia.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.