Smell and Taste Disorders


Smell and taste disorders are very common. In fact, more than two million people in the United States are evaluated for these complaints each year. Most find it very troublesome that they cannot smell anything from their food to a flower. It is the sense of smell that alerts people to danger, such as a fire. It is common for the sense of smell to lessen with age. However, not being able to smell at all is alarming.

The nose is able to detect many things other than pleasant aromas. Those who have lost their sense of smell are in danger of inhaling toxic chemicals, which can put their life in jeopardy. The sense of smell enhances the taste buds too, and it helps to make eating more pleasurable. When a person cannot smell, they will lose some or all of their taste sensations as well. A loss of any sense is quite problematic. Unfortunately, these disorders are very difficult to diagnose and treat.

Olfactory Disorders: Dysfunction With Smelling

The loss of the sense of smell, or reduction of the ability to smell, is called hyposmia. Hyposmia falls under the category of an olfactory disorder. There are olfactory nerve receptors located high up in the nose. These nerve receptors send signals back and forth to the brain to produce this sense. Additionally, the taste cells are located in the taste buds. These little receptors, on the tongue, relay information to the nerve fibers nearby. They also send information to the brain essential for a person’s ability to sense taste. The two senses send signals that are parallel. When one fails to function properly, the other one suffers, too.

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The Root Cause of Olfactory Disorders

Medical experts classify olfactory disorders into two different categories: conductive and sensorineural. For some patients, it is possible to have a combination of both types. A loss of air flow, through the nose, is caused by conductive disorders. This can be from a deviated nasal septum, sinusitis, turbinate hypertrophy, polyps in the nasal area, or tumors. The most common tumors that disrupt this sense is located within the frontal lobes of the brain. Regardless of the cause, they are all problematic conditions.

Treating Olfactory Disorders

The best way to treat conductive disorders is through medication or surgery. In many cases, both types of treatment are needed to find relief. When the olfactory nerves are damaged, sensorineural disorders can also occur. These conditions affect the inner ear, which affects the balance and hearing. Physicians often see these conditions after an upper respiratory infection or head injuries, which causes neurological disorders. It is possible to have a problem with several senses, giving one a reduced quality of life.

Unfortunately, sensorineural disorders are not treatable. It takes time to see if there is any improvement. Doctors and patients must wait and hope for the best. The loss of both smell and taste can be caused by medications too. However, once the medication is stopped, these senses should return to normal.

Those having trouble smelling or tasting should have an evaluation by a medical professional. The sooner these symptoms are treated, the better the chance for a positive outcome.