Loss of Smell (Anosmia): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 4/30/2020

Anosmia is the medical term that refers to the loss of sense of smell. The sensations of taste and smell are related, so many disorders of the sense of smell are also associated with a decreased sense of taste. Causes of loss of sense of smell vary and can range from

  • infections,
  • obstructions in or damage to the nose,
  • to damage to the brain and nervous system in general.

Anosmia may be temporary, as occurs with some infections, or permanent. Irritation to the mucus membranes of the nose from smoking, inhalation of pollutants or toxins, or from infections can affect the ability to perceive smells.

Some loss of sense of smell occurs during normal aging. Sometimes, having a cold, sinus infection, or the flu can result in a decrease in the ability to perceive smells. An infection with the recently described virus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has also been reported to cause a loss of the sense of smell.

Other causes of loss of smell (anosmia)

Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.