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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Loss of smell

08/31/2009

Question:

I have had a loss of smell for about 5 months following a bad sinus infection. I have seen a doctor and given an MRI which did not show any polyps. My doctor said there was really nothing else I could do. I can smell a few things if I get close to my nose. I was wondering if there might be anything else I might do to try and get my sense of smell back. Thanks.

Answer:

This sinus infection you describe was most likely a viral respiratory infection.  This can cause a loss of smell.  The virus directly infects the smell nerve endings that lie along the roof of the nasal cavity, and cause deterioration with a loss of smell.  Sometimes the loss is complete, sometimes incomplete.  Oftentimes recovery does occur, but this can take time (months to several years), and unfortunately there is no medication at this time which will clearly help.  If you have no evidence of residual sinus inflammation (and you should confirm this with your doctor), this is the most likely cause. 

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati