Loss of Sense of Smell (Anosmia)
The sense of smell is very important. This is particularly the case in individuals for whom smell and taste are an essential part of the their working life (chefs, sommeliers and others). Many patients who have altered smell complain of altered taste. 80% of a meal’s flavour is due to input from smell receptors rather than taste. Taste is actually only the sensation of five qualities – saltiness, bitterness, sweetness, sourness and umami (monosodium glutamate). All the other more subtle flavours are detected by the olfactory neurons in the nose.
A patient who has lost their sense of taste or smell requires a thorough assessment to look for possible causes. These include some serious causes they require treatment. In broad terms problems with smell are divided into those that interfere with the conduction of smells to the nerve cells (conductive anosmia) and problems that effect the nerve cells themselves (sensorineural anosmia). Some types of loss of smell can be treated with medications, others with surgery.