Anosmia (Smell Loss)

Losing your sense of smell can be a frustrating experience. Houston Rhinologist Dr. Shawn Allen is a board-certified ENT with the skill and experience needed to properly diagnose and treat smell loss.

Female having lack of flavor

What is Anosmia?

Anosmia is a complete loss of smell. A partial loss of smell is called hyposmia. Smell loss has received more attention lately because it is a common symptom of COVID-19.1 Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Symptoms of Coronavirus Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Go to Source However, anosmia is a fairly common condition that can originate from a number of causes.

Types of Anosmia

Anosmia is a complex condition that is typically categorized into two types:

Conductive anosmia

Conductive anosmia happens when odor molecules are not able to reach the olfactory sensors due to a blockage in the nasal airways. This type of anosmia may be caused by a temporary condition, such as a respiratory or sinus infection, or a chronic condition such as non-allergic or allergic rhinitis. It can also be caused by nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum or nasal polyps. Approximately 70% of cases of smell loss are considered to be conductive anosmia and the condition is often treatable to regain smell function.2 Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source The National Center for Biotechnology Information Li X, Lui F Go to Source

Neural anosmia

Neural anosmia happens when the olfactory nerves are impaired or damaged. Some cases of neural anosmia are congenital and it is believed that as many as one in every 10,000 people are born with this type of smell loss.3 Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Smell Loss Cleveland Clinic Go to Source Neural anosmia may also be acquired after a viral respiratory infection (such as COVID-19), a traumatic head injury, or, more rarely, with the development of a sinus or skull base tumor.

woman sniffing coffee from can and smelling aroma

Symptoms of Anosmia

In addition to loss of smell, patients with anosmia often notice a diminished sense of taste. Smell plays an important role in flavor perception while eating. Smell loss restricts flavor perception to only basic tastes such as sweet and salty. In cases of conductive anosmia, chronic nasal congestion may also be present and contribute to snoring and poor quality of sleep.

Diagnosing Anosmia

If you are experiencing a loss of smell, it is important to see an experienced and qualified Rhinologist in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Dr. Allen will use a variety of diagnostic tools, including nasal endoscopy, CT Imaging, and occasionally smell testing in order to figure out the underlying cause of your smell loss. He will review your medical history and discuss your symptoms. He will then be able to develop a personalized treatment plan to restore your sense of smell in cases where function can be improved.

woman smelling fresh clothes

Anosmia Treatment

A range of treatment options are available for anosmia. If Dr. Allen believes that your smell loss is caused by an infection or inflammation of the mucous membranes inside the nose, he may prescribe medication. He may also recommend smell retraining therapy, also called olfactory training, which is a series of exercises that can help some patients regain their sense of smell when nerve damage is the suspected cause.

If Dr. Allen determines that a chronic condition or a nasal obstruction is causing your anosmia, he may recommend procedures such as septoplasty, turbinoplasty, in-office balloon sinuplasty, or endoscopic sinus surgery.

Dr. Shawn Allen

Contact Dr. Shawn Allen

Dr. Allen is experienced in treating complex nose and sinus issues and he is dedicated to helping patients feel better. Contact us to schedule a consultation appointment.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of Coronavirus. Available: Accessed February 13, 2023.

2 Li X, Lui F. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Anosmia. Available: Accessed February 13, 2023.

3 Cleveland Clinic. Smell Loss. Available: Accessed February 14, 2023.

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Dr. Shawn Allen has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.

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