Sense of smell, complete loss
Anosmia is the inability to smell. Some people have anosmia from birth, whereas others lose their ability to smell over time. Experts suggest that anosmia and hyposmia affect about 3–20% of the population. Hyposmia is a decreased ability to smell. Sometimes people call anosmia smell blindness. The condition may be permanent or temporary.
Smell is a complex process that involves communication between the brain and nose. When a person sniffs an odor, air travels into the nose, and the odor molecules attach to receptors on the nerve that sense smell, called the olfactory nerve. These nerves line the olfactory epithelium, which is the tissue lining the nasal cavity. When odor molecules from the environment stimulate these nerves, they transmit signals to the brain. The brain receives the olfactory information and processes it into a scent that a person can identify.
There are many common conditions that can cause anosmia to develop. These may include:
Symptoms can range from not being able to smell or taste at all to the reduced ability to smell or taste specific things that are sweet, sour, bitter or salty. In some cases, normally pleasant tastes or smells may become unpleasant.
The loss of smell is difficult to measure. Your doctor may ask you some questions about your current symptoms, examine your nose, perform a complete physical examination, and ask about your health history.
They may ask questions about when the problem started, if all or only some types of odors are affected, and whether or not you can taste food. Depending on your answers, your doctor may also perform one or more of the following tests:
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