- Anosmia is the medical term for the loss of smell.
- Loss of smell can be caused by many things, such as injury and COVID-19.
- Anosmia can be diagnosed by examining your nose and mouth, and through other tests.
- Smell is important for experiencing life, especially food.
- If you have anosmia, and you experience a loss of appetite or depression, talk to your doctor.
What is Anosmia?
Anosmia is the medical term for the loss of smell.
If a person has a partial sense of smell, it is called hyposmia.
Your sense of smell contributes to your everyday experiences. Smell is especially connected to the sense of taste. Having anosmia can affect the taste of food and drink.
What symptoms are related to anosmia?
If you have anosmia, this means you are unable to smell anything. Other symptoms you might experience depend on what causes your anosmia.
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What causes anosmia?
Anosmia and hyposmia have many different causes. Most of the time, the causes of anosmia are age-related. Some people are born with anosmia.
Injuries to the head and face can cause the loss of smell.
Infections can also cause anosmia, such as:
Other causes of anosmia are:
- brain tumours
- nasal polyps
- head injury
- vitamin deficiency
- hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or chronic sinusitis
- diseases including Parkinson's disease, or Alzheimer's disease
When should I see my doctor?
If you notice a change in your sense of smell, see your doctor.
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How is anosmia diagnosed?
To diagnose anosmia, your doctor might refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. The specialist can help diagnose your condition through:
- examine your nose, mouth and throat with a medical instrument called an endoscope
- doing scans such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic image resonance (MRI) scan
- blood tests
How is anosmia treated?
Treatment depends on why you lost your sense of smell. It can involve:
Can anosmia be prevented?
You can protect your sense of smell by:
- avoiding certain chemicals
- avoiding certain drugs
- not smoking
If you are taking any medicines, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about the risk of anosmia.
If you do have anosmia, you can make your home safer by:
- reading food expiry dates carefully
- making sure your smoke alarms are working
- checking that cookers, barbecues and electrical appliances are turned off properly
Complications of anosmia
If you have a cold, your sense of smell will usually come back within 1 or 2 weeks. See your doctor if your sense of smell doesn't come back after this time.
If you have anosmia, you may find that food tastes bland. This can affect your life, particularly if your family and social life revolves around meals. This can impact your appetite.
If you have anosmia, you might also worry about:
- eating something that's spoiled
- not noticing dangerous smells like gas or smoke
Because of these reasons, having anosmia can negatively impact your mental health.
Resources and support
If you feel depressed, speak to your doctor or call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
If you want to know more about anosmia you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: July 2023