Smell Loss - Why and What Exactly Happens?

Smell Loss - Why and What Exactly Happens?

One day you wake up and you realize you can't smell anything. It's not just annoying — it's alarming, too. Since smell and taste are closely connected, you're unable to enjoy your favorite scents and foods. Why? And what can you do to recover one of your most important senses?

Smell loss can happen for any number of reasons. For instance, you might lose your smell when you have a cold or sinus infection. Or, you may develop a smell disorder like anosmia, which leaves you without the ability to smell anything, or hyposmia, which leaves you with only the ability to smell occasionally. Either way, you may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and sad. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, you may be able to fully recover from your smell loss experience.

Before discussing treatments for smell loss, let's examine the medical reason behind this perplexing but common phenomenon.

What Is Smell and How Can It Be Lost?

The sense of smell \happens not so much in the nose but in the brain in the olfactory cortex. The olfactory cortex governs your ability to both smell and distinguish odors. That's why you can tell the difference between the strong smell of a fresh pot of coffee and the gentle smell of a delicate rose petal. You can thank your olfactory receptors, which send special signals back to your olfactory cortex, for this ability! You'd have trouble knowing exactly what you're smelling without the olfactory receptors.

When your brain's olfactory system works fully, you don't have to worry about smelling anything. But you can begin having issues when something goes wrong, temporarily or permanently. These issues may be subtle, irritating, or profound and life-changing.

What Are Some Common Smell Disorders That Cause Olfactory Cortex Disruptions?

Take congenital anosmia, for example. It's a condition that leaves people unable to smell anything at all. While you can develop anosmia at any time, congenital anosmia occurs at birth and lasts for life. Currently, there isn't a cure for congenital anosmia. However, ENT doctors and researchers are working diligently to find a way to restore the sense of smell in people with this disorder.

Another smell loss disorder is parosmia. When you have parosmia, you're unable to correctly distinguish smells. People with parosmia may think that a pleasant smell is a bad one. They simply can't tell the difference because their olfactory cortex and olfactory receptors can't work as designed. One strategy to treat this issue with stellate ganglion block parosmia treatment. A stellate ganglion block has been shown to help reset the brain and put the sense of smell back in working order.

What to Do If You Have Smell Loss

If you wake up one morning with a stuffy nose because of a cold or allergies and you realize your smell is "off" or non-existent, don't panic. With at-home care, you may be able to restore your sense of smell. Often, smell loss can be fleeting, especially because of an allergic response or a sinus infection on the mend.

On the other hand, if you suspect that you may have a smell disorder or have been experiencing smell loss for a long time, you should consider contacting an ENT doctor. Your provider will help you determine if you may require treatment or if your smell loss will likely go away. Some people have worked with their physicians to re-train their brains to come back from profound smell losses, so it's always worth booking an appointment with someone from a reputable practice like ENT of Georgia South. You have nothing to lose and your sense of smell to gain.

Final Thoughts on Losing Your Sense of Smell

The underlying message around smell loss is that you don't have to assume the worst. Smell loss may be surprising and even scary, but medicine has come a long way. There are new treatments arising from research all the time, so be sure to ask your ENT for recommendations. That way, you'll be better versed in all your options regarding improving your smell and, by proxy, your ability to taste.

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