What It Really Means When You Lose Your Sense Of Smell

If you are wondering why you have lost your sense of smell, there may be a scientific explanation for it. Anosmia, or the partial or complete loss of the sense of smell, is most commonly caused by conditions that irritate the lining of the nose. This can ultimately lead to swelling and a blockage of the nasal passages (via Healthline). In turn, odor molecules are prevented from getting to the top of the nose and attaching to the olfactory receptors. When this occurs, your nose is unable to send signals to your brain to help you identify a particular smell. While most cases of anosmia are temporary, it is possible to permanently lose your sense of smell.

The most common cause of loss of smell is the common cold, but it can also result from allergies, sinus infections, the flu, smoking, and chronic congestion, according to Healthline. Since both taste and smell use the same types of receptors, loss of taste and smell usually go hand in hand. As a result, people experiencing anosmia may not be able to smell or taste their food, and may even lose interest in eating altogether. For some people, this may have a negative impact on their mental health.

Loss of smell and COVID-19

Loss of smell is also an early sign of COVID-19. Since COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets that enter through the nose and mouth, it is not uncommon for people with COVID-19 to experience a loss of taste and smell (via Cleveland Clinic). In fact, around 85% of COVID-19 patients will experience anosmia at some point throughout the duration of the illness. Just exactly how long this symptom lasts, however, can vary greatly depending on the person.

"One study used objective smell testing and found that only 15% of COVID-19 patients experience a loss of smell for more than 60 days and less than 5% experienced it for longer than six months," Otolaryngologist Dr. Raj Sindwani told the Cleveland Clinic. Still, some cases of COVID-19-related anosmia can last even longer, stretching from six months to upwards of one year (via The Conversation). This can take quite a toll on a person's mental health. Being unable to smell anything or taste and enjoy food can negatively impact your diet and overall quality of life, which can potentially result in weight loss and malnourishment.

Fortunately, you can regain your sense of smell through a technique known as olfactory training. This involves sniffing the same primary scents over and over again in order to retrain your body to detect and identify specific odors.