Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Anosmia
Anosmia (say "ay-NAWZ-mee-uh") is the loss of the sense of smell. It can be a problem by itself or a symptom of another health problem. It can last a short time, such as when you have a stuffy nose from a cold, or it can be permanent.
Some people have a reduced sense of smell. This is called hyposmia (say "hy-PAWZ-mee-uh"). These people may be able smell some scents but not others. Or scents may smell different than they used to.
The sense of smell is closely tied to the sense of taste. If you can't smell the aroma of food, you will likely have trouble tasting food. This could lead to not eating enough and losing weight. You also may not get the nutrients you need.
Anosmia can affect your mood. It can make you feel sad or depressed, because the aromas of food, flowers, and other things add to the joy of life.
Lack of a sense of smell also can be dangerous. For example, you wouldn't be able to smell a gas leak or smoke from a fire.
Many people lose some of their sense of smell or taste as they get older. But lack of the sense of smell is usually caused by an injury or a health problem. Anosmia can be short-term and get better when the health problem goes away. But sometimes it's permanent.
Anosmia can be caused by:
A doctor diagnoses lack of the sense of smell with:
In some cases, you also may have:
Treatment depends on whether the cause is something that can get better on its own or be fixed. Your sense of smell should return if, for example, a cold that caused your loss of ability to smell gets better or if you stop taking a medicine that caused you to not be able to smell.
If an injury, disease, or surgery caused damage to the nerves that control your sense of smell, you might not be able to smell again. Or your sense of smell might return, but it may be different than it was before. Sometimes the sense of smell will return on its own.
Current as of: July 29, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineCharles M. Myer III MD - Otolaryngology
Current as of: July 29, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Charles M. Myer III MD - Otolaryngology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.