According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, around 12% of all American adults suffer with sinusitis which equates to over 30 million people. If you haven’t heard of the term previously, it actually refers to inflammation within the sinuses and the main symptoms include a plugged nose, thick nasal mucus, sore throat, headaches, and a cough (which normally gets worse at night). However, there’s also another symptom that can come from sinusitis; loss of smell and taste.
Even if you were born with a fully-functioning sense of smell, you may have experienced some degree of anosmia in your life because we have all suffered from the common cold. When you feel under the weather, you might lose your sense of smell for a few days. Since many of the senses are linked in some way, we also tend to lose our sense of taste too. While anosmia caused by a cold is just a temporary issue, unfortunately some have this problem more permanently as a result of sinusitis.
If you have inflammation within the sinuses and this leads to a loss of smell and taste, you will need to inform your doctor. After the first point of contact, they’ll use special devices to look inside your nasal passage (so long as the issue is not attributed to a common cold or flu). First and foremost, they’ll be looking for nasal polyps to see if this is impairing your sense of smell. If they can’t find any issues, you could then be referred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist who will have more equipment and tests to get to the root of the problem. For example, a CT scan will show the professionals a full picture of your sinuses and any abnormalities can be picked up very quickly.
Treatment for the Loss of Smell and Taste
If the doctor finds nasal congestion due to an allergy or cold that hasn’t quite formed (or disappeared) yet, there is very little they can do to help. Over time, the issue will develop and the body will act to remove it and this will return your sense of smell and taste. If you’re having trouble breathing, they may recommend decongestants which can be bought over-the-counter whenever needed. If the problem gets worse and you’re worrying it might be something more serious, you should return to the doctor. After making another assessment and running more tests, they might spot an infection which can be treated with antibiotics. If not this, there could be another medical condition at fault.
If you have nasal polyps, which are small swellings inside the nasal passage, you might be asked to undergo endoscopic sinus surgery. Often performed under general anesthetic, a small endoscope will run through your nostrils and into the nasal passage; this is a thin tube with a tiny camera on the end. From here, they can take action against the nasal polyps and the problem should be removed which will bring back your sense of smell and taste.
At times, some people feel as though their medication is actually disturbing the senses so this is another avenue that could be investigated if you feel it’s necessary. Of course, you should never stop taking medication until you talk to your doctor but they might provide other solutions that will allow you to recover after the loss of smell and taste.
On rare occasions, the loss of smell and taste can actually remedy itself spontaneously but this doesn’t happen too often. It might suggest a light issue such as a cold or flu. With so many different causes and treatments, it’s vital you see a doctor as soon as you notice the issue arising. Even if you’re already being treated for nasal polyps or any other issues, you should still inform the specialist so they know the situation has changed. From here, they may adjust your treatment plan or suggest different medication.
With sinusitis itself, this could actually be caused by a number of conditions. Although we’ve focused quite heavily on nasal polyps, you and your doctor should investigate a deviated nasal septum, extreme allergies including hay fever, respiratory tract infections, and complications of other health conditions such as HIV, cystic fibrosis, and gastroesophageal reflux. As long as you have a medical professional by your side, you know your best interests are always at the center of all decisions!