Doctor Verified

Factors That Can Cause Loss Of Smell Other Than COVID-19

Losing one’s sense of smell became quite prevalent during the peak of COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are other factors that can cause the condition

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: Jul 16, 2023 14:00 IST
Factors That Can Cause Loss Of Smell Other Than COVID-19

Onlymyhealth Tamil

During the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, especially the second coronavirus wave in India, loss of sense of smell and taste became a determining factor for the infection. For anyone, who was unsure of his or her symptoms, smell loss would confirm it. However, anosmia, the medical term for the condition, existed long before the onset of the SARs-CoV-2 virus. In an interaction with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr Anita Mathew, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, discusses the causes of loss of smell other than a COVID-19 infection. 

Also Read: Should You Bathe Immediately After Eating? Expert Answers

Understanding Anosmia

Loss of smell, also known as anosmia, is a condition where an individual experiences a partial or complete inability to detect odours. It can significantly impact one's quality of life, affecting the ability to enjoy food, detect potential dangers (like spoiled food or gas leaks), and experience the pleasure of various scents. Timely medical evaluation and treatment are important to identify the underlying cause and potentially restore the sense of smell.

As per a 2017 study published before the COVID-19 pandemic, anosmia and hyposmia is estimated to have afflicted 3–20% of the population. However, a 2022 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that over 2.7 crore people worldwide experienced COVID-related smell or taste loss. Another study claimed that around 90% of mildly symptomatic COVID-19 patients who experienced a loss of taste or smell (or both) fully regained these senses within two years.

COVID’s Impact On Sense Of Smell And Taste 

Loss of smell and taste seen in COVID-19 patients was more predominant in the second wave in India due to the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, said Dr Mathew, adding that some patients saw the effects lasting from months to years. According to the doctor, there has been no complete clarity on why COVID-19 caused this symptom, which can be classified into complete loss of smell called anosmia, partial loss as hyposmia and altered sense of smell called parosmia. The inability to taste well is called hypogeusia, she added.

Although the exact cause of anosmia in COVID patients is unknown, one study published in the Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, suggested that COVID-19 produces an inflammatory product that causes olfactory loss while also interfering with viral spread into the central nervous system, following which the olfactory receptors in the central nervous system play a role as an alternative mode of SARS-CoV-2 entry into cells. 

In addition, it is believed that loss of smell or taste tends to occur more frequently in women than in men, as per a study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology.

Also Read: If You're Suffering From Acidity, Here's The Right Way To Take Antacids As Per An Expert

Other Common Causes Of Loss Of Sense Of Smell 

There are many other conditions which can cause loss of smell. Dr Rajkumar said, “Simple colds, coughs and fevers due to flu and other flu-like viruses can also cause this illness. People with allergies, those who abuse nasal drops without a medical prescription, specific hormonal changes, those who use addictive agents for snorting, dental issues, accidents involving the head, and certain neurological conditions like Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, among others are just a few conditions that can cause smell and taste alteration.”

Treatment Options

Depending on the diagnosis, a treatment plan can be laid out accordingly. So, if a person suffers from an impaired sense of smell, a doctor can identify the cause behind it. So, treating an illness like sinusitis, Parkinson’s disease, hormonal issues, can eventually help in recovery. However, according to Dr Rajkumar, it can become difficult to treat loss of smell in people suffering from COVID-19, as no medications exist for it. 

Other ways to treat it include altering eating habits, using intense flavours in their food, and changing the texture of foods. Certain medicines like Pentoxifylline, caffeine, Theophylline and intranasal insulin have been studied with variable utility, the doctor concluded.