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beautiful young woman smelling fresh gre


Condition and symptoms

Changes in sense of smell are usually caused by

  • a cold or flu virus

  • sinusitis

  • allergy eg hayfever

  • nasal polyps

  • head trauma

All these causes can cause loss of smell (anosmia), smelling things that are not present (phantosmia), reduced smell (hyposmia) and an altered sense of smell (parosmia).

It is estimated that the incidence of olfactory ( smell)

loss in the general adult population ranges from 19% in people older then 20 years of age to 25% in those older than 50 years. It increases to as much as 63% in people older than 80 years of age. 


After taking a detailed history looking for causes of the change in smell a detailed examined into the nose will be undertaken. This usually involves passing a small endoscope into the nostril under local anaesthetic. This is a quick and painless procedure and enables a causes of the altered smell to be identified or excluded. Depending on the findings and the history, scans such as CT and/or MRI may be indicated. Some data suggest that olfactory training can increase the potential recovery after a post-viral or post-traumatic loss. This will be discussed at your consultation as will safety issues relating to loss of smell if there is inability to smell eg gas leak, fire etc  If the loss is due to an inflammatory process then treatment can be beneficial and will be advised.

Loss of Smell: Articles & Resources
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