Lost sense of smell: how to restore it?
Doctors call the inability to smell anosmia. This violation can indicate serious illness and significantly reduce the quality of life of a person.
One of the dangers of anosmia is that when harmful substances enter the nose, a person does not have a natural defense reaction of the body in the form of sneezing. This leads to the fact that toxins penetrate further and cause serious damage to health. To find out the cause of the loss of smell, you need to visit a specialist.
- Description of the disease
- Disease types
- Reasons for the lack of smell
- Anatomical changes in the nasal cavity
- Symptoms of lack of charm
- Diagnostics of anosmia and hyposmia
- Which doctor should I go to?
- How to restore your sense of smell?
- When loss of smell becomes the reason for surgery
Description of the disease
Lack of smell is a problem that affects the state of the body as a whole. So, pleasant aromas of food stimulate the activation of the digestive tract, trigger the production of gastric juice. If a person does not smell the food, then the digestive system as a whole suffers.
With anosmia, the receptors in the nose stop responding to stimuli. The brain does not receive impulses and does not recognize smells. When the problem lies in diseases of the central nervous system, the receptors, on the contrary, send signals to the brain, but it refuses to perceive them. The third mechanism for the realization of anosmia boils down to the fact that the receptors of the nose recognize odors, send them to the brain, but on the approach to it they are blocked.
There are several types of olfactory disorders:
Hyposmia. In this case, the sense of smell is preserved, but it is very weak. A person has the ability to recognize only certain odors.
Hypersomnia. In this case, the sense of smell will be heightened.
Kakosmia. In this type of violation, a person considers pleasant smells unpleasant.
Anosmia. This disorder is characterized by a complete loss of smell. Pathology develops against the background of ARVI or after a stroke.
In a person with a violation of the olfactory function, the quality of life in general suffers. This leads to the fact that he becomes irritable, may become depressed.
Full or partial loss of smell can be either congenital or acquired. If a violation occurs in a person from the moment he was born, then the reason is reduced to the underdevelopment of the respiratory system. Most often, the baby will be diagnosed with other pathologies of the skull and nose.
Acquired anosmia can develop due to damage to the central nervous system, or after exerting a negative effect on the nasal region.
Reasons for the lack of smell
The causes of peripheral anosmia can be as follows:
Respiratory causes. A person breathes in air with aromatic molecules, but they do not reach the receptors of the nose. A similar situation is observed in people with hypertrophy of the tissues of the nasal cavities, with curvature of the nasal septum, with polyps and adenoids. In general, any neoplasms growing in the nasal cavity can lead to a violation of the sense of smell.
Functional reasons. These include infectious and allergic rhinitis. A person does not smell due to swelling of the mucous membranes of the nose. Sometimes a similar situation develops in people suffering from hysteria or neurosis. After treatment, the sense of smell is fully restored.
Aging of the body. Smells are felt worse by the elderly, as they gradually atrophy the mucous membranes of the nose. Therefore, most elderly patients complain to doctors about dry nose.
Smell analyzer pathologies (essential anosmia). The reasons for its development: a burn of the nasopharynx, atrophy of the epithelium of the nasal mucosa, inflammation of the mucous membranes, intoxication of the body.
Peripheral anosmia is indicated by the simultaneous deterioration or disappearance of not only the sense of smell, but also the taste.
Central anosmia can develop against the background of the following diseases:
- Cerebral circulation disorder.
- Received TBI.
- Alzheimer's disease.
When anosmia develops due to disturbances in the functioning of the cortical centers of smell, the person feels the smell, but cannot understand its nature.
Why does the sense of smell disappear with a cold?
Viral infection. The sense of smell is always diminished in people with a respiratory infection. Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, itching, and nasal congestion.
The reasons for the deterioration of the sense of smell:
- Mucus coats the walls of the nose and prevents them from contacting normally with air.
- Viruses by themselves are capable of blocking the functioning of the nasal receptors.
Sinusitis. This disease is manifested by inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nasal sinuses. Most often, it develops against the background of an untreated cold. A person's body temperature rises, the nose remains stuffy, and severe headaches occur. If you do not start treatment on time, then the multiplication of bacteria will lead to the development of a purulent process. Bacteria have a destructive effect on the epithelium, in which the olfactory receptors are located, so that a person stops smelling.
Overdose of nasal drops. It is not recommended to use vasoconstrictor drops more than 4 times a day. The interval between their introduction into the nasal passages should be at least 4 hours. This rule is true for the acute stage of the disease. However, not all people with a runny nose adhere to this recommendation. Frequent use of nasal drops leads to the fact that the muscular layer of the nasal vessels ceases to function normally, tissue nutrition deteriorates and a person loses his sense of smell.
Hormonal disorders. Sometimes hormonal fluctuations in the body become the cause of the violation of the sense of smell. Anosmia can develop during pregnancy, menstruation, and also when taking oral contraceptives. After the stabilization of the hormonal background, everything returns to normal.
Allergy. With the development of allergic rhinitis, a person's sense of smell disappears. This phenomenon is temporary and once the symptoms of allergy are relieved, the ability to recognize odors will return. To cope with an allergic reaction, you will need to take antihistamines.
Anatomical changes in the nasal cavity
The sense of smell can deteriorate significantly or disappear altogether with violations such as:
- Overgrowth of polyps or adenoids.
- Curvature of the nasal septum.
- Tumor neoplasms.
- Hypertrophy of the nasal concha.
To bring the sense of smell back to normal, you need to eliminate the existing defects. Most often, these patients require the help of a surgeon.
Poisons and chemicals. Smelling problems arise in persons who, due to professional duties, have to come into contact with toxic substances. These include: paints and varnishes, products of the oil industry, acid fumes, etc. Work in hazardous industries threatens with a complete loss of smell.
Symptoms of a lack of smell
The symptoms of anosmia are most often mild. Often, people completely ignore them, considering the violation of the sense of smell to be something insignificant and does not require attention. In many ways, the symptoms of pathology depend on the cause that triggered its development. The main manifestations of the violation can be distinguished as follows:
- Difficulty nasal breathing, swelling of the mucous membranes, secretion from the nasal passages. These symptoms indicate rhinitis.
- If a violation of smell develops after a recent acute respiratory viral infection or a cold, then this indicates the so-called essential anosmia. A violation is characterized by the replacement of the olfactory epithelium with the respiratory one.
- If a person feels smells, but cannot verify them, then with a high degree of probability the reason lies in disturbances in the functioning of the central nervous system.
- A temporary loss of smell is observed with trauma. Sometimes the resulting damage to the nasal structures leads to a distortion of the sense of smell.
- Dryness of the nasal passages, the appearance of crusts in them and a weakening of the sense of smell indicates atrophic processes. Often this problem occurs in older people.
With the deterioration of the olfactory function of the nose, one should pay attention not only to the well-being of a person, but also to the pathologies transferred in recent times.
Diagnostics of anosmia and hyposmia
To find out exactly the cause of the deterioration of smell, you need to consult a doctor. To begin with, the doctor will conduct testing aimed at recognizing smells and tastes by the patient. To do this, he will offer him to smell various substances that have a bright aroma.
To establish the cause of the violation, a thorough examination of the nasal cavity may be required, clarification of information about past injuries of the nose, about diseases of an allergic and infectious nature. Sometimes it is necessary to investigate the state of the nervous tissue responsible for the innervation of the maxillofacial muscles and respiratory organs.
Other diagnostic techniques include:
Olfactometry. The procedure is carried out using a special device called the Tsvaardemaker olfactometer. The study allows you to determine the threshold of sensitivity of olfactory receptors and their ability to recognize odors.
Rhinoscopy. This procedure is aimed at assessing the condition of the nasal cavities, nasal septum and mucous membranes of the organ. Diagnostics is carried out using a rhinoscope.
Analysis of mucus from the nose. Sometimes a chronic infection is the cause of the impairment of smell. Its causative agent can be identified with the help of the study.
MRI of the brain. It is done when a serious pathology is suspected, the doctor is able to visualize the changes that occur in his lobes. First of all, the specialist is interested in the frontal lobe of the brain. If a violation is found, then the patient is referred for consultation to a neuropathologist or neurosurgeon.
CT of the nasal cavity. This study makes it possible to visualize neoplasms and clarify their nature.
After establishing the cause of the violation of the sense of smell, the patient is prescribed treatment.
Which doctor should I go to?
If the sense of smell is impaired, you need to consult an otolaryngologist. This doctor will interview the patient, perform his external examination, and prescribe the necessary tests. After interpreting the data obtained, the specialist will prescribe treatment. If the pathology is hidden in a disruption of the brain, then the patient is referred for consultation to a neuropathologist and neurosurgeon.
How to restore your sense of smell?
If a person does not feel odors for a long time and does not know the cause of the disorder, then it is necessary to go to an appointment with an otolaryngologist. You should not try to cope with the problem on your own. Only a doctor can help restore your sense of smell.
The main directions of treatment:
- Elimination of the influence of toxins on the body. Lifestyle correction with smoking cessation, alcohol consumption, etc.
- Taking drugs that allow you to cope with the existing pathology.
- Physiotherapy treatment.
The right to choose a specific drug remains with the doctor.
The most commonly prescribed drugs are:
- Means for rinsing the nose. They can be represented by sea water or saline. These include: Aqua Maris, Aqualor, Rino stop (in more detail: how and with what to wash your nose?).
- Vasoconstrictor drugs, including: Vibrocil, Afrin, Rinorus, Naphtizin, Galazolin, Nazol, Nazivin. These drugs can help reduce swelling and get rid of nasal congestion.
- Drugs for relief of allergy symptoms, for example, Cromohexal, Aleron, Suprastin, Loratadin, Zodak, Edem, Tsetrin (more about antihistamines of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation).
- Antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal agents. The specific drug is selected depending on the type of infectious agent.
If the patient has a pathology associated with the central nervous system, the drugs are selected by the neurologist on an individual basis.
Physiotherapy treatment is reduced to the implementation of the following methods:
- UHF therapy.
- Darsonval therapy.
- Electrophoresis with Diphenhydramine.
- Laser treatment.
- Inhalation with steroid hormones.
When loss of smell becomes the reason for surgery
You can get rid of polyps in the nose only by surgery. Any other neoplasms are treated in the same way. If a malignant tumor has been diagnosed, then the patient, in addition to the operation, is shown to undergo a course of radiation or chemotherapy. Even so, doctors cannot guarantee full recovery of the sense of smell.
The surgeon will need to resort to patients with a deviated nasal septum. After correcting it, the ability to smell the patient returns.
Anosmia of central genesis, provoked by tumor neoplasms, requires surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If the disease is diagnosed at the last stage of development, then treatment is reduced to eliminating pathological symptoms and improving the patient's quality of life. At the same time, it will no longer be possible to return the sense of smell to a person.
The complex therapy regimen includes treatment with zinc preparations. If the body lacks this trace element, then a person's sense of smell worsens. This also applies to vitamin A. Its deficiency leads to atrophy of the mucous epithelium of the nasal cavity.
In order to prevent loss of smell, you need to avoid infectious diseases. It is important to maintain the normal functioning of the nervous and immune systems.
The main recommendations of specialists:
- Maintaining a stable emotional background, avoiding stressful and conflict situations.
- Commitment to the daily routine.
- Compliance with the principles of proper nutrition.
- Taking vitamins.
- Performing good and regular nasal hygiene.
- Moisturizing mucous membranes with saline solutions and natural oils (peach or almond).
- Room humidity control, regular ventilation.
- Performing daily wet cleaning.
- Refusal to visit places with significant crowds. This recommendation is especially relevant during the period of massive outbreaks of infections.
The author of the article: Lazarev Oleg Vladimirovich | ENT
Education: In 2009, he received a diploma in the specialty "General Medicine" at the Petrozavodsk State University. After completing an internship at the Murmansk Regional Clinical Hospital, he received a diploma in Otorhinolaryngology (2010)