What is loss of smell?

Loss of smell results from nasal congestion or blockage of the nose, or it can be a sign of a nervous system (neurological) condition. The medical term for loss of smell is anosmia. A partial loss of smell is called hyposmia. Loss of smell is often caused by conditions affecting the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages. Allergic reactions are a common cause of loss of smell. Such reactions may be triggered by pollen (hay fever), animal dander, foods, or medicines.

Nose Problems Spotlight

Upper respiratory infections cause inflammation of the nasal passage and are common causes of loss of smell. These infections include the common cold, sinusitis, and influenza. Temporary loss of the sense of smell is common with nasal allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Some medications may also cause loss of smell.

The sense of smell is often lost with disorders that prevent air from reaching the part of the nose where smell receptors are located. These disorders may include nasal polyps, nasal deformities, and nasal tumors. Brain disorders that affect the neural impulses between the brain and receptors in the nose responsible for smell may lead to loss of smell. Such disorders include brain aneurysm or tumor. Even the aging process may affect the transmission of signals between the brain and smell receptors in the nose.

The sudden onset of loss of smell associated with weakness or numbness in the arms or fingers, especially if it occurs on only one side of the body, can be a sign of stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you develop weakness or numbness on one side of your body.

Seek prompt medical care if your loss of smell is persistent or causes you concern.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with loss of smell?

Loss of smell may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the sense of smell may also involve other body systems.... Read more about loss of smellsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes loss of smell?

Loss of smell results from conditions affecting the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages. Allergic reactions are a common cause of loss of smell. Such reactions may be triggered by pollen (hay fever), animal dander, foods, or medicines. Upper respiratory infections that cause inflammation of the nasal passages are also common causes of a loss of smell, including the common cold, sinusitis, and influenza. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi may cause infections related to loss of smell.... Read more about loss of smellcauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat


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