ZocdocAnswersWhat is wrong with my sense of smell?

Question

What is wrong with my sense of smell?

My nose doesn't feel clogged and I don't have a cold, but I think something is wrong with my sense of smell. It just seems like it isn't that good right now and I'm worried. What could affect my sense of smell if I don't have a cold?

Answer

You are definitely right that the most common cause of a decreased sense of smell is congestion of the nasal passages from a cold virus. This occurs because the mucus produced from the cold covers the nerve endings in the nasal passages that are supposed to pick up smells, preventing them from working efficiently. The next most common causes of decreased smell would be sinus congestion or nasal allergies. Even though you say that you don't have much nasal congestion or cold symptoms, I think it is still worth having your doctor check you out for nasal allergies. Many people have nasal allergies in the fall, and the symptoms may be subtle or you may have gotten so accustomed to them that you don't even realize they are occurring. In the presence of chronic irritations (say from nasal allergies), over time small growths called nasal polyps may form in the nasal passages, and these can also disrupt your sense of smell. When your doctor examines you for nasal allergies, they will also be able to tell if you have polyps. If these common causes are ruled out, there is an extensive list of other, rarer potential medical causes to be thought about, and your doctor can help you go through those as well. Please make an appointment soon.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.