Your sense of smell is important for your quality of life. Not only does it allow to enjoy the aromas of fresh cut grass, a cup of coffee or the flowers in your yard, it also helps you detect dangers, like smoke or spoiled food. Your sense of smell also aids your ability to taste! If you experience a smell disorder, you can’t enjoy all the beautiful aromas and flavors the world has to offer.
How Do We Smell?
High in the nose are olfactory sensory neurons, which connect directly to the brain. Each neuron has one odor receptor. When substances in our environment release microscopic molecules, they stimulate these receptors, which send a message to the brain so it can identify the smell.
Since there are more smells in the environment than there are receptors in the nose, a single molecule may stimulate a combination of receptors, creating a unique representation in the brain.
What’s a Smell Disorder?
People with smell disorders have either a decrease in ability to smell or changes to how they perceive odors.
Common smell disorders include:
- Hyposmia: reduced ability to detect odors
- Anosmia: complete inability to detect odors (can be congenital)
- Parosmia: change in normal perception of odors (like when a familiar smell is distorted)
- Phantosmia: sensation of an odor that isn’t there
What Causes Smell Disorders?
- Sinus & upper respiratory infections
- Growths in nose
- Head injury
- Hormonal disturbances
- Dental issues
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Certain medications (commonly antibiotics and antihistamines)
- Radiation treatment
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
How Many People Experience Smell Disorders?
It is estimated that one to two percent of North Americans have problems with their sense of smell. Populations that are especially susceptible are the elderly and men. One study found that nearly 25 percent of men ages 60-69 experience smell disorders, compared to about 11 percent of women in the same age range.
Can Smell Disorders Be Treated?
Smell disorders can be diagnosed and treated by otolaryngologists, also known as ENT (ear, nose, throat) physicians. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, meaning some cases can be treated and others cannot.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call ENT of Georgia today!