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What Is Anosmia?

Anosmia Diagnosis

If you experience a loss of smell that you can't attribute to a cold or allergy or which doesn't get better after a week or two, tell your doctor. Your doctor can take a look inside your nose with a special instrument to see if a polyp or growth is impairing your ability to smell or if an infection is present.

Further testing by a doctor who specializes in nose and sinus problems -- an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT, or an otolaryngologist) -- may be needed to determine the cause of anosmia. A CT scan may be necessary so that the doctor can get a better look of the area.

Anosmia Treatments

If nasal congestion from a cold or allergy is the cause of anosmia, treatment is usually not needed, and the problem will get better on its own. Short-term use of over-the-counter decongestants may open up your nasal passages so that you can breathe easier. However, if the congestion gets worse or does not go away after a few days, see your doctor. You may have an infection and need antibiotics, or another medical condition may be to blame.

If a polyp or growth is present, surgery may be needed to remove the obstruction and regain your sense of smell.

If you suspect a medication is affecting your sense of smell, talk to your doctor and see if there are other treatment options available that won't affect your ability to smell. However, never stop taking a medication without first talking with your doctor.

Sometimes a person will regain his or her sense of smell spontaneously. Unfortunately, anosmia is not always treatable, especially if age is the cause. But there are steps you can take to make living with the inability to smell more pleasant and safer. For example, put fire detectors and smoke alarms in your home and office and take extra care with leftovers. If you have any doubt about a food's safety, don't eat it.

If you smoke, quit. Smoking can dull your senses, including your sense of smell.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on March 18, 2013
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