Disorders of smell and taste are more common than one would expect.  The common cold or other viral infections, intracranial tumors, and trauma to the head, nose, tongue and the oral cavity are frequent causes of diminished, distorted, or loss of smell and taste. Because loss of smell and taste are rarely life threatening, they may not receive close attention until the cause is far advanced.

Disorders of smell:
1. Hyposmia - reduced ability to smell 
2. Anosmia - total loss of smell
3. Dysosmia or Cacosmia - distorted, foul or putrid smell
4. Hyperosmia - increased sensitivity to odors

Hyposmia and anosmia are the most common disorders of smell and taste. Because distinguishing flavors is dependent on smell, people sometimes notice decreased ability to smell when their food seems tasteless. The ability to smell is affected by changes in the nose, in the nerves leading from the nose to the brain, or in the brain. Changes inside the nose from seasonal allergies, polyps, viral or bacterial nasal or sinus infections, smoking tobacco, and radiation therapy for cancer all can cause loss of smell. Head trauma or brain  tumors inside the nasal cavity at the thin plate of bone that seperates the brain from the roof of the nasal cavity are the most common cause of permanent loss of smell. Alzheimer's disease or other degenerative brain disorders can also permanently affect the ability to smell.
Oversensitivity to smell (hyperosmia) is much less common than decreased (hyposmia) or loss of smell (anosmia). Pregnant women often have a heightened sense of smell. This usually disappears with childbirth. Temporal lobe seizures and psychosomatic disorders can also produce dysosmia. Other causes of dysosmia are: sinus infections, poor dental hygiene, oral infections, depression, and viral hepatitis.
Disorders of smell can be tested by special commercial standardized smell tests with the results indicating the severity of disordered smell.
Doctors can also use several readily available substances:soap, vanilla bean, coffee, and cloves to detect inability to smell.

Disorders of taste:
1. Hypoguesia - reduced ability to taste
2. Aguesia - loss of taste
3. Dysguesia - distorted taste

Disorders of taste are usually also accompanied with distorted sense of smell since fine flavor detection ability depends on both of these special senses. Dysguesia and hypoguesia usually are due to conditions that affect the tongue and lack of moisture in the lining tissues (mucus membranes) within the oral cavity. Conditions like Sjogren's syndrome, heavy smoking (especially pipes), radiation therapy to the head and neck areas, medicines frequently used by elderly people (antihistamines, diuretics, antidepressants, and arthritis meds), and nutritional deficiencies( Vitamin B, zinc, copper, and nickel, all can alter taste. Bell's palsy can affect taste in 2/3rds of the affected side of the tongue; and burns to the tongue may temporarily destroy taste buds. Neurological disorders, seizures, and depression also alter or impair taste.Taste disorders can be tested with sugar (sweet), salt (salty), sour (lemon juice), and bitter (aspirin or quinine) as isolated substances since these are each detected by specific areas of the tongue.

Treatment for Smell and Taste Disorders: are common for both conditions: hydration, steam inhalation, nasal and intra oral lubrication, smoking cessation, nutritional supplements where indicated, and surgery for removal of nasal polyps, oral lesions, and intracranial tumors. 
If you or anyone you know is complaining of any disorder of the sense of smell or taste please call our office for an appointment with Dr. Sciacca for a thorough head and neck examination or testing

For more information about smell and taste 


4501 Southlake Pkwy
Suite #200
Hoover, AL 35244