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How does our sense of smell work? How is it diagnosed and treated?

How common are smell disorders?

• To enjoy life completely one must have sense of smell along with other health aspects.
• We enjoy our food, nature with their aromas.
• The sense of smell helps us in other ways too like detecting dangers like of spoiled food, fire, smoke or a gas leak.
• Loss of smell is an endangerment to life activities and its quality.
• This is also a sign for a serious condition.
• It also can be a sign of more serious health problems.
• With age, this problem becomes more effective.
• It is common in men than compared to women.
• With loss of sense of smell also arises loss of sense of taste too.

How does our sense of smell work?

• Our sense of smell is a part of our chemosensory system.
• They are part of chemical senses.
• Olfactory sensory neurons are specialized sensory cells.
• They are present inside a small tissue patch located in the nose.
• These cells bear a direct link to the brain.
• Each of this olfactory neuron represents 1 odor receptor.
• The molecules of aroma or odor in the air like that of coffee or any food stimulate these receptors.
• These receptors release signals to the brain leading to sense of smell.
• There are two ways to reach these smells to these sensory neurons of Olfactory.
• First is the tissue patch in the roof of throat and the other is through nostrils.
• The throat patch identifies the smell when chewing the food.
• This is why one cannot enjoy the taste and smell of food when attacked by a cold or flu as this pathway is blocked by mucus.
• Sense of smell and taste are linked closely.
• Olfactory sensory neurons enable to differentiate flavors and smells.
• A common chemical sense influences sense of smell.

This sense is linked with thousands of nerve endings of moist surfaces of:
– Eyes
– Nose
– Mouth
– Throat
These nerve endings are responsible for identifying the irritating substances by inducing tear or pungency or coolness in the nose say from onion or mint.

How is smell disorders diagnosed?

• An otolaryngologist is a doctor who deals with the diseases of the ENT and head and neck.
• Some tests measure the amount of odor detected by the patients.
• There is a book that has pages which have beads that are filled with certain odors. This booklet is used for the patient in another test.
• The patient has to smell the odor by scratching these sheets.

Other tests include:
A physical examination of:
– Ears
– Nose
– Throat
• A review of your health history
• Exposure to toxic chemicals or trauma
• A smell test supervised by a professional.

Can smell disorders be treated?

• Most of the smell disorders are treatable.
• Counseling helps patients to adjust who are not curable.
• Doctor has to diagnose the reason that is behind the loss of sense of smell and then work upon it.
• Depending on which certain medications can be prescribed.
• If the patient has polyps, they can be extracted by surgery.
• Some are recovered when temporary numbing of olfactory sensory neurons is overcome like from a cold or flu.
• Some recover spontaneously.

Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way Navigating Smell and Taste Disorders The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine

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