Can Loss of Smell be Linked to Sinusitis?


The sense of smell is part of one’s chemosensory system. Olfactory sensory neurons are specialised sensory cells present in the nose, allowing us to smell. Each olfactory neuron has an odour receptor. Microscopic molecules released by objects in our environment enter the nose and activate these receptors. These molecules serve the purpose of activating the receptors and allowing us to perceive odours.

When we breathe, we inhale tiny airborne molecules. These molecules travel through the nasal cavity to the olfactory epithelium (tissue). These microscopic cell clusters, which are aligned with the tops of the cheekbones, are covered in mucus and cilia (tiny hairs). The cilia help to capture the tiny molecules. However, when a person has sinusitis, the nasal cavity can become inflamed and produce excess mucus. This condition affects the ability of the olfactory sensory neurons to detect the airborne molecules. As a result, we may experience a partial or complete loss of smell, also known as anosmia.

loss of smell

What happens if we lose smell?

Loss of smell can be caused by any issue with how olfactory neurons detect and communicate with the brain. A stuffy nose, blockage, inflammation, nerve injury, or a problem with brain function can naturally impact one’s capacity to smell. In addition to this, several conditions, illnesses, hormone imbalances, and substances can impair one’s sense of smell. In some cases, the impairment can be permanent.

An absolute loss of smell is known as anosmia, a medical ailment. Hyposmia, on the other hand, is the partial lack of scent. Anosmia patients frequently experience salty, sweet, sour, and bitter things. Nonetheless, patients with anosmia are unable to distinguish between various flavours. The smell is a necessary component for flavour discrimination. People with anosmia frequently lament that they cannot appreciate their food because they have lost their sense of smell.

Anosmia is typically a transient condition brought on by a severe cold-related stuffy nose. After the cold has been treated, they will regain their ability to smell. Yet, for other people, particularly many elderly, the problem of losing their sense of smell is chronic and may potentially be a sign of a more serious medical issue.

What are the causes of loss of smell?

  • Sinus infection
  • Cold
  • Smoking
  • Flu
  • Allergies
  • Tumour

How to diagnose loss of smell?

It is challenging to quantify the loss of smell. A person’s ENT doctor could inquire about their present symptoms and medical background. The ENT doctors will also check the patient’s nose and conduct a thorough physical examination.
The diagnostic tests that your ENT doctor recommends are:

  • A CT scan
  • MRI scanning
  • Skull X-ray
  • Nasal endoscopy

How to treat loss of smell linked to sinusitis?

Treatment options include over the counter medication which relieves symptoms, they are:

  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal steroid sprays
  • Antibiotics (for bacterial illnesses)

What are the complications associated with loss of smell?

The following issues might arise in someone who lost their sense of smell:

  • An inability to smell bad food, which can lead to food poisoning
  • An inability to taste food, which can cause eating too much or too little
  • Increased risk in the event of fires
  • An inability to recall memories connected to smells
  • Lack of compassion from family, friends, or medical professionals, difficulty in identifying chemicals or other potentially harmful scents in the house
  • Lack of capacity to smell body odour
  • Mental illnesses like depression

About the author

Dr.GVK Chaitanya Rao | Best ent doctor hyderabad

Dr. Chaitanya Rao, Managing director at Dr. Rao’s ENT group of hospitals has 10 years experience in the field of ENT.

His special areas of interest include Nose & sinus surgeries, Otology, Snoring and sleep apnea surgeries. During his Post-graduation itself he was invited as a visiting physician to House Institute of Medical sciences, Los Angeles; Rhinology and Anterior skull base unit, Ohio State University Medical Centre, Columbus, Ohio and University of Michigan from where he picked up his skills.

He plays a key role (Course Director & co-ordinator) in giving hands on training to around 150 ENT surgeons every year from all around the world for initiating and improving their ENT surgical skills as a part of Hyderabad ENT Research Foundation initiatives.

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