Early in the epidemic, multiple studies showed that about half of people with COVID lost their sense of smell (called anosmia) at some point during the course of infection. Approximately an additional 20% to 35% experienced a clinical decrease in their ability to smell (hypo smell).
Although recent evidence suggests that omicron may not lead to a loss of smell as much as previous variants, given that more than half a billion people have had at least one of the variants to date, there are still many millions of people who may have experienced these. Status some degree.
For most people, this is just a temporary loss of job. But a large portion will have problems in the long run. Recent studies show that 12 to 18 months after the initial diagnosis of COVID, 34% to 46% of people still have a clinically reduced sense of smell. However, most of these people do not know it.
A related issue is parosmia, in which a person’s perception of odors changes, often finding them to become more unpleasant. Research suggests that up to 47% of people who have contracted COVID can be affected. As with loss of smell, most sufferers will likely recover with time. However, some may experience long-term problems.
COVID is not the only condition that can lead to loss of smell. For example, it can also be caused by viruses or other infections, head trauma, or a combination of neurodegenerative diseases. While the evidence for loss of smell after COVID is still emerging, data from other types of olfactory dysfunction give us an idea of some of the effects that long-term smell loss can have on everyday life.
1. Food safety
People with this weakness are more likely to eat spoiled food because, first of all, it is the smell that warns us when something is going off. This can increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Other than the basic taste sensations (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami), almost everything we experience as taste results from odors that reach the smell receptors in the nose via the nasal passage at the back of the throat. Unfortunately, without your sense of smell, most of what you eat would have little taste. Remove the ability to sense smells, and the apple will taste just like a potato if you close your eyes.
In addition to giving us pleasure when eating, the smells of food also stimulate our appetite. This means that when we can’t smell our dinner cooking in the oven, we’re less likely to go hungry.
4. Weight fluctuations
Loss of appetite and pleasure from eating together cause most people with newly acquired odor to lose weight initially. However, our bodies are designed to keep us alive. People with anosmia quickly begin to seek pleasure from other sensory stimuli when eating food, such as the texture, for example in the crunch of fried food. Instead of waiting until they feel hungry, many of them will simply eat. These unconscious changes in eating behavior often lead to weight gain, which can lead to long-term heart problems and other related health problems.
There are some consequences to losing smell that you may not think about right away. Take, for example, the fact that a person who does not smell will not be able to monitor their own body odor. This can be a source of self-consciousness and insecurity in social situations.
Several studies have shown that an impaired sense of smell is associated with decreased reported social interactions, number of friends, and sexual pleasure. The latter can also be associated with a loss of the ability to sense a partner’s scent.
6. Mental health
A third of people who seek treatment for smell problems report a reduction in their quality of life and general well-being, compared to what they did before these problems. This is likely due to a combination of factors described above. People with a poor sense of smell often report symptoms of depression, and it is not uncommon for them to associate this with their smell problems.
Unfortunately, there are few treatments for people with olfactory dysfunction. For the smell problems caused by the virus, the only treatment that has some obvious effect is smell training. This is somewhat similar to nasal physical therapy and consists of exposure therapy, in which the patient is asked to smell a range of scents for 20 minutes, every morning and evening, over the course of two to three months. Although patients rarely recover completely, studies have shown that scent training improves olfactory functions over time.
However, the COVID pandemic has given a boost to olfactory research, and several interesting new treatments are currently in preclinical trials. In a few years, it’s possible we’ll see a host of new treatments for dysphoria.
In the meantime, what should you do if you think your sense of smell is not what it should be? You can start scent training on your own using common household scents. If you do not notice significant improvement after six weeks of training, contact your healthcare provider for an evaluation.
Johann N. Lundstrom, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet
This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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