You are here:

Impaired Smell

What Is Impaired Smell?

smell is the inability to smell properly. Impaired smell can describe a
complete inability to smell, or the partial inability to smell. It’s a symptom
of several medical conditions and may be temporary or permanent.

Loss of
smell can occur due to problems in the nose, brain, or nervous system. Call
your doctor if you have difficulty smelling. In certain cases it’s a sign of a
more serious underlying issue.

Potential Causes of
Impaired Smell


smell can be temporary or permanent. Temporary loss of smell usually occurs
along with allergies or bacterial or viral infections, such as:

  • nasal
  • influenza
  • colds
  • hay

As you age,
an impaired sense of smell is normal. The impairment is usually a distorted
sense of smell rather than a complete inability to smell.

conditions that can cause impaired smell include:

  • dementia
    (memory loss)
  • neurological
    disorders like Alzheimer’s disease
  • tumors
    in the brain
  • malnutrition
  • nasal
    tumors or surgeries
  • head
  • sinusitis
    (sinus infection)
  • radiation
  • viral
    upper respiratory infections
  • hormonal
  • nasal
    decongestant use

prescription medications, like antibiotics and high blood pressure medications,
can also alter your sense of taste or smell.

Diagnosing the Cause of
Impaired Smell


If you have
an impaired sense of smell, call your doctor before using over-the-counter
(OTC) treatment products. Let them know when you first noticed the changes in
your ability to smell, and about other symptoms you may be experiencing.

the following questions can help the doctor pinpoint what may be causing your
impaired sense of smell.

  • Can
    you smell some foods but not others?
  • Can
    you taste foods?
  • Do
    you take any medications?
  • What
    other symptoms do you have?
  • Have
    you recently had a cold or flu?
  • Do
    you have or have you recently had allergies?

reviewing your medical history, the doctor will perform a physical examination
of your nose to see if there are any blockages in your nasal passages. These
tests may include:

  • CT
    (computed tomography scan)
  • MRI
    (magnetic resonance scan)
  • X-ray
  • nasal
    endoscopy (examination of the nasal passages with a thin tube that contains a

These tests
will help the doctor get a closer look at the structures within your nose.
Imaging tests will reveal whether there’s a polyp or other abnormal growth
obstructing your nasal passages. They can also help determine if an abnormal
growth or tumor in the brain is altering your sense of smell. In some cases,
your doctor may need to take a sample of cells from within the nose to make a

What Treatments Are
Available for Impaired Smell?


smell caused by a viral or bacterial infection is often short-lived. In the
case of bacterial infections, antibiotics may be given to speed up the healing
process. This will help to restore smell. Decongestants and OTC antihistamines
can help relieve nasal congestion caused by allergies.

If you have
a stuffy nose and are unable to blow your nose, use a humidifier to moisten the
air. Keeping a humidifier in your home can loosen mucus and help relieve

If a
neurological disease, tumor, or other disorder causes your impaired smell, you’ll
receive treatment for the underlying condition. Some cases of impaired smell
may be permanent.

How to Prevent Impaired


There’s no
sure way to prevent the loss of smell. You can minimize the risk of contracting
colds or bacterial infections by taking the following steps.

  • Wash
    your hands frequently throughout the day.
  • Wash
    your hands after touching public areas.
  • When
    possible, avoid people who have colds or the flu.

Be familiar
with the possible side effects of all of your prescription medications. Side
effects printed in the leaflet material may include impaired smell.

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top