Smell and taste represent two of our most basic bodily senses. We utilize them on a daily basis as they act not only to enhance, stimulate, and bring pleasure to our daily living, but also act to protect us from harm. Loss of these senses can impair your ability to detect smoke, dangerous gases, and to avoid ingestion of rotten or spoiled food.
Hyposmia, also known as decreased sense of smell, can be caused by a number disorders. Common causes include: head trauma, nasal obstruction secondary to nasal polyps or blockage of the nasal airway, tumors, viral upper respiratory tract infection, old age, and degenerative cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Loss of small can be measured by a number of standardized test that can be quickly administered in clinic. Unfortunately, these test are often only able to determine the degree of loss and may not offer much information regarding prognosis.
Alterations in our ability to smell can have a drastic impact on our ability to taste food and indulge in one our most basic and instinctive pleasures. It is important to remember that smell plays a large roll in taste. The inability to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or a tasty afternoon desert may in fact be caused by a problem with your ability to smell rather than an actual primary taste disorder. Proper and prompt diagnosis by a trained professional is key as some causes may be reversible.
Imaging is usually only obtained to evaluate for nasal masses such as polyps or tumors within the sinus and nasal cavity when suspicion arises. Labs are rarely obtained unless the patient’s history is suggestive a certain pathology.
Timing is critical. The earlier treatment is started the better! Prognosis related to loss of smell and taste are largely dependent on the cause of the disorder. For patients with sinusitis and nasal polyps medical management and/or surgery are often times successful. For patients who have suffered traumatic head injury a trial of oral steroids may improve symptoms.