If your sense of smell has recently deserted you, this could be due to a condition called anosmia. With this particular condition, you may also experience your sense of taste getting affected – a condition called ageusia. This will leave you with a range of unfamiliar flavours and reduced taste – steak will taste more like lamb and chocolate will lose its taste to an extent that you will feel as if you are munching on the diabetic version of a chocolate.
Many people think losing the sense of smell (anosmia) or taste is not a serious issue, especially compared to other chronic health conditions, or issues with other senses, including impaired hearing, sight, or touch. Still, anosmia can take enjoyment out of your life.
In most cases, one out of two problems can lead to anosmia– a traumatic heady injury and a viral infection. In addition, certain antidepressants, antibiotics, or exposure to toxic solvents and pesticides may also be one of many causes of becoming senseless. Usually, nasal congestion, which could be due to a sinus infection, allergy, cold, or poor air quality, is the underlying cause of anosmia.
A head injury as severe as whiplash or any virus can affect the olfactory receptor neurons (OFNs) in your brain. With damaged receptor cells, it becomes difficult for the smell signals generated in the nasal cavity to reach to the brain. While it is true that millions of OFNs are there in your brain, the damage done to enough will make it difficult for your brain to receive the smell signals.
It is worth mentioning that anosmia affects your sense of taste in a negative way because the brain identifies tastes by combining smell signals with those signals that it receives from the taste buds. Any interruption here will lead to a condition known as ageusia. In some situations, it may be a partial loss of sense of taste and smell, but in some cases, you may be completely senseless.
To avoid further complications, you need to see your doctor after having difficulty smelling different odours. In less severe cases of anosmia, an over-the-counter decongestant may well be enough to clear your nasal passages, but, sometimes, a surgery is required if a polyp is present.