New treatment for loss of sense of smell

Smell impairment affects 12% of Americans. The majority of food appreciation comes from the sense of smell. Losing the sense of smell causes food to be tasteless. It also represents a health hazard, as people cannot smell smoke, or gas in their home. They cannot detect spoiled or rotten food-possibly leading to food poisoning.

Smell or odor testing is rarely available. There are some simple tests to assess gross sense of smell.

The vast majority of impairment comes from inflammation within the nasal cavity. This is most commonly viral, but can be bacterial, or caused by nasal polyps. Head trauma can also cause loss of smell. Olfactory loss is more common in Alzheimer’s patients and Parkinson’s disease, but loss of smell does NOT mean a patient is progressing towards dementia.

Treatment in the past was to remove inflammation in the nose. Beyond that, little else helped these unfortunate patients.

A nasal spray has been made available through a local compound pharmacy which utilizes a lung medication (theophylline) to possibly help these patients. The medication is usually not paid for by prescription drug coverage, and is about $40 a month. If you have this problem, an evaluation is necessary before prescribing this treatment.

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