lost sense of smell raleigh cary

The flu can damage your sense of smell. Fortunately, this is usually not permanent, though it may take it a while to return. Often, whether or not you regain your sense of smell depends upon the underlying cause. If extensive damage is done to your nasal nerves, it is more likely that the condition will be permanent.

The medical term for a complete loss of smell is anosmia, while a partial loss of smell is called hyposmia. 

Typically, anosmia is not an indicator of a serious condition. However, because the sense of taste and sense of smell are closely related, anosmia may mean that you lose interest in eating, and as a result, lose too much weight. Therefore, you fail to get the important nutrients your body needs.  The National Institutes of Health state that anosmia affects 3 percent of the adult population over the age of 40, and the incidence increases with age. For those over 60 years of age, the rate rises to as much as 22 percent.

What can cause you to lose your sense of smell?

According to the Mayo Clinic, any condition that obstructs your nasal passage or flow of air through your nose can cause you to lose your sense of smell. 

These conditions include:

  • The common cold
  • The flu
  • Sinusitis
  • Chronic congestion
  • Nasal polyps

There are also neurological conditions that can cause anosmia. Although uncommon, the olfactory center of the brain---the part used for processing the sense of smell--- can be damaged by:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • A brain tumor
  • Head injury
  • Diabetes
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals such as insecticides
  • Certain medications
  • Zinc-containing nasal sprays (these have been taken off the market) 

How can I regain my sense of smell?

We have ear, nose and throat doctors who have extensive expertise and can implement a plan to help you. The course of care depends upon the underlying cause. For example, if your problem is caused by chronic sinus infections, then we will create a treatment plan to help you. (You may even be a candidate for our innovative balloon sinuplasty procedure.) In cases like this, your sense of smell should return at some point after the underlying problem is resolved.

If your anosmia is due to an underlying neurological condition, the good news is that your olfactory (sense of smell) nerves can regenerate, although it cannot be predicted when or to what extent. There’s also a large difference in the rate of regeneration among different individuals---for some it may take days, while for others, it may take years. There are some treatments available, and we’ll be happy to discuss if one of them is right for you.


Loss of smell due to an acute condition like a sinus infection is not likely to be permanent. Your sense of smell should gradually return. However, anosmia due to a neurological problem with your brain makes it difficult to predict when or if you will be able to smell again.

Raleigh Capitol ENT will help you treat anosmia

There are many potential causes for anosmia, and that’s why it’s important to have an experienced, innovative health care team on your side. We’ve been the provider of choice for the Raleigh, Durham and Cary area for decades, and our board-certified physicians are well-versed in the most recent treatments. Whether your sense of smell has been damaged by a nose injury or chronic rhinosinusitis, we’re here to help you. Please contact us to schedule an appointment


Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area's premiere physician-owned ENT practice with six convenient locations throughout Wake County. Our board-certified physicians have extensive experience in treating both common and complex cases to help adults and children alike. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.


Mayo Clinic. “Loss of Smell.” Online.

National Institutes of Health. “Anosmia.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482152/