Lesson 3

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Welcome back, gents. Today, we’re talking about a medical condition called Anosmia (pronounced “ah-NOSE-mee-ah”).

Anosmia 

In short, Anosmia is the “loss of the ability to detect one or more smells.” It can be a temporary or permanent condition and people that suffer from Anosmia can lose their sense of smell gradually or all at once.

Anosmia isn’t the kind of condition where there’s only one cause – it can occur temporarily as a result of medical conditions as minor as a cold but it can also be congenital – meaning people are born with it and carry it with them throughout their entire lives.

Temporary Anosmia 

A temporary loss of smell can be caused by a blocked nose or infection. A blocked nose prevents odor molecules from reaching the olfactory receptor neurons that fire and send signals through the olfactory tract up to your brain

Permanent Anosmia

A permanent loss of smell is usually caused by the death of the olfactory receptor neurons that fire and send signals through the olfactory tract up to your brain. Although there can be  hundreds of causes behind this, common causes include:

  • Exposure to chemicals that burn the inside of your nose
  • Radiation therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • A brain injury in which there is damage to the olfactory nerve
  • Damage to the brain areas that process smell (‘the olfactory system’)
  • Smoking – which actively destroys olfactory receptor neurons

Why Is Anosmia Dangerous?

Loss of smell is not just inconvenient or unpleasant. Let’s be honest, gents – not being able to smell freshly baked bread or freshly brewed coffee would take a lot of fun out of a shopping trip. On a more serious note, Anosmia can also be dangerous or even fatal.

When it comes to the more serious consequences of this condition, there are both DIRECT and INDIRECT dangers of losing your sense of smell.

DIRECT dangers of losing your sense of smell

  • POISONING:
    • You are no longer able to determine which foods should not be eaten through smell alone – for example, if they’re rotting
  • DEATH:

    • Loss of smell means you can’t detect:
      • Smoke if your house is on fire
      • Gas leaks
      • Toxic or polluted air 
      • The build-up of everyday products such as bleach, disinfectant, and aerosol sprays

INDIRECT dangers of losing your sense of smell:

  • DEPRESSION:

    • Loss of smell more often than not means loss of taste. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a food person – cooking and eating food loses much of its joy when you can’t taste the final product.
    • Being unable to smell your loved ones also causes a major issue. For example – when a parent cannot smell his or her newborn child.
  • SOCIAL ANXIETY:

    • Anosmic people are often concerned about their body odors – if you can’t smell yourself, would you trust those around you to be honest and tell you that you stink?
  • FRUSTRATION:

    • People with Anosmia are dependent on others to identify smells for them. That might not seem that big of a deal at first – but over time this could easily lead to frustration and a decrease in autonomy.

Even though we might not think about the importance of our smell on a day-to-day basis – it’s important to keep in mind just how big of a part it plays in our experience of the world around us.

Be honest with yourself – when was the last time you thought about the benefits your sense of smell brings you?

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