Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Problems With Smell
Why are smell and taste important?
The senses of smell and taste let you fully
enjoy the scents and flavors of foods and drinks. These senses also protect you
from food poisoning and warn you of dangers like fire, polluted air and
Is there a difference between taste
Yes. The basic tastes are salty, sweet, bitter
and sour. “Flavor” involves taste and smell. For example, because a
person is able to smell a chocolate bar while eating it, the chocolate not only
tastes sweet but also has the flavor of “chocolate.” The flavor of
chocolate candy might not be as good if you couldn’t smell it too.
What can happen if I have trouble
with my sense of smell or taste?
If you can’t smell or taste your food, you
might eat too much and gain weight, or you might eat too little and lose weight.
You might use too much sugar and salt to try to make your food taste better.
This can be a problem if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.
What can cause problems with my
ability to smell or taste?
Nose or sinus problems might make you lose your
sense of smell for a little while, or even for a long time. Your sinuses might
be swollen or polyps (tiny growths) might block your nose passages.
Infections (like colds or the flu) or a head
injury might make you lose your ability to smell. Parkinson’s disease or
Alzheimer’s disease can also make people lose their sense of smell.
Infection or inflammation in your mouth can
cause loss of taste. (Inflammation means redness and swelling.) Head injury and
Bell’s palsy (an inflammation of the nerves in the face) can also affect
the ability to taste.
Some medicines (like antibiotics and blood
pressure pills) can affect your ability to smell and taste. Cigarette smoking,
certain chemicals and a lack of vitamins or minerals (like vitamin
B12 and zinc) can also cause problems with taste and smell.
What can I do about this problem?
Talk to your family doctor. If a medicine is
causing the problem, your doctor might have you stop taking the medicine or take
a different medicine. Then you might be able to taste and smell again. But
don’t stop taking a medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
If you have an infection or an allergy,
treatment might help. Your doctor can tell you if treatment is right for you.
A few people lose the ability to smell or taste
forever. But it’s still possible to improve the appeal of food. Your
doctor can give you tips for fixing food in ways that will increase your
enjoyment of it.