What is impaired smell?

Impaired smell is basically the inability to smell properly. It can be a complete inability to smell or partial inability. Take note that this is a symptom of different medical conditions and can either be permanent or temporary. The loss of smell can occur due to certain issues with the nose or problems with the nervous system or the brain. If the individual complains of difficulty smelling, it is best to consult a doctor in order to determine if there is a serious underlying cause.

What are the possible causes of impaired smell?

Take note that impaired smell can either be temporary or permanent. In case of temporary loss of smell, it typically occurs during allergies or hay fever as well as viral and bacterial infections such as cold or influenza.

As one starts to age, impaired smell is normal. Always remember that this is usually a distorted sense of smell than a complete inability. Other conditions that can lead to an impaired smell include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Dementia
  • Brain tumors
  • Head injuries
  • Nasal tumors
  • Radiation therapy
  • Sinusitis
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Viral upper respiratory infections
  • Use of nasal decongestants


Impaired smell

It is also important that you know the appropriate measures to take in case of injuries to the nose are sustained.

If an individual has an impaired sense of smell, scheduling an appointment with a doctor is wise choice. Any changes to the ability to smell must be relayed as well as other symptoms experienced by the individual. The doctor will perform a physical assessment of the nose and request certain tests such as a CT scan, X-ray, MRI and nasal endoscopy.

The doctor uses these diagnostic tests to check the structures inside the nose whether there are abnormal growths present. In some cases, a sample of the cells inside the nose might be required in order to come up with the right diagnosis.


If the impaired smell is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, it is often temporary. For bacterial infections, the doctor usually prescribes antibiotics to hasten the healing process as well as help restore the normal sense of smell. Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants can also help relieve nasal congestion due to allergies.

In case the individual has a stuffy nose and could not blow his/her nose, you can use a humidifier to moisten the air. Having a humidifier on hand can help reduce the congestion by loosening up the mucus.

If the cause of impaired smell is a tumor, neurological disease or other disorders, the individual will receive the appropriate management for the underlying disorder. On the other hand, there are cases in which impaired smell can be permanent.


Understandably, there is no specific way to prevent the loss of smell. Nevertheless, you can minimize the risk of getting colds or infections caused by bacteria by taking into consideration the following.

  • Always wash hands regularly all throughout the day
  • Wash hands after in contact with public facilities
  • Avoid contact with individuals who have flu or cold

Lastly, it is also important that you know the appropriate measures to take in case of injuries to the nose are sustained. You can enroll in a first aid class so that you will learn how to handle injuries to the nose as well as other body parts.


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