ZocdocAnswersWhat is anosmia?

Question

What is anosmia?

My mom seems to have trouble tasting and smelling things, which my doctor said is anosmia - she says it's especially common in older women, but what is it? What is the root cause of anosmia and is it reversible?

Answer

I understand how this could be confusing. It sounds like your mother's doctor told her that she had anosmia, a term that is not used commonly in the public. The best type of physician to speak to about this is your mother's primary care physician. In some cases, an ear nose and throat doctor (also known as an otolaryngologist) can act as a second opinion. The definition of anosmia is the inability to smell. Thus it is not a disease itself, it is merely a clinical sign. In other words you mother saying she can't smell and your doctor saying she has anosmia is the same thing. Anosmia is not a diagnosis, it is just the definition of loss of sense of smell. Causes of anosmia can be temporary such as an upper respiratory track infection (common cold). Anosmia can also be seen in older folks in which the sense of smell gradually deteriorates. It seems this is what her doctor thinks she has. Anosmia can also be an early sign of dementia as seen in Alzheimer's disease. There are many other causes of anosmia that I cannot review in detail here, but they should be considered by your mother's doctor. Good luck.

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