Loss of sense of smell (anosmia): What causes it?

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Loss of sense of smell (anosmia): What causes it?

Question

We recently learned that our 6-year-old son has no sense of smell. What causes this?

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Answer

Loss of ability to smell (anosmia) can be temporary or permanent depending on the cause. Temporary anosmia is common with colds, sinus infections (sinusitis) and nasal allergies. Other potential causes of anosmia include:

  • Enlarged adenoids
  • Nasal polyps
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke
  • A side effect of medication
  • Trauma to the face and nasal structures
  • Tumors, such as neuroblastomas, meningiomas, frontal globe gliomas and pituitary gland tumors

Rarely, babies are born without a sense of smell (congenital anosmia), such as in Kallmann syndrome, an uncommon inherited disorder. In some cases, the cause of anosmia can't be determined (idiopathic anosmia).

Last Updated: 02/08/2007
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