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Disorders of smell and taste

What is taste and smell disturbance (anosmia)?

Loss of a sense of smell can occur because of nasal blockage, sinusitis or other conditions that prevent odorants (smell particles) reaching the sensitive nerve endings that detect smell in the roof of the nose. This is called conductive anosmia.

Diagnosis involves careful examination of the nose, and sometimes CT imaging. Appropriate medical treatment can often restore the sense of smell, but sometimes endoscopic sinus surgery is required to achieve the best results.

Snoring can be caused by a range of factors such as age, body shape, nasal or sinus problems, alcohol, smoking, and certain medications. Ascertaining what is causing your snoring can help in finding a solution.

Loss of smell can also occur as a result of head injuries, or complications from a severe cold or viral infection.

The delicate nerve endings of the olfactory (smell) nerves are quite prone to damage (causing sensorineural anosmia), but unlike most nerve cells in the body, the nerve cells have an ability to repair themselves.

Loss of smell can also affect taste. Although the tongue is responsible for the perception of five broad tastes (salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami), the nuances of flavour are very much dependent on a good sense of smell.

While spontaneous recovery can occur by itself, early treatment may improve recovery rates. Diagnosis often involves an MRI scan, as well as examining the nose to exclude the inflammatory conditions mentioned above. While the chance of complete recovery is not as good as in conductive causes, accurate diagnosis avoids endless courses of ineffective treatments and ensures safety measures are put in place to protect patients.

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