An estimated 2.7 million people in the United States have an impaired or absent sense of smell, known as chronic olfactory dysfunction. Head trauma, viral infection, nasal obstruction, septal deviation, neurological disorders, medications, hormonal disturbances, or normal aging can cause chronic olfactory dysfunction.
If you've ever been sick and could not taste or smell, you know how different you feel. Some people live with an impaired or absent sense of smell every day. New research finds people with this problem are at risk for experiencing life-threatening situations including not being able to smell a fire, gas leak or spoiled food.
For the study, 445 patients were evaluated for smell and taste disorders and underwent olfactory testing. Researchers found the average age of the participants was 50 years old, approximately half were men, and 18 percent were tobacco users. Seventy-six of the patients had some impairment in their sense of smell, and 30 percent had no sense of smell. Researchers report 37 percent of patients with smell impairment experienced a potentially hazardous event. The most common problem was cooking-related incidents followed by ingestion of spoiled food, inability to detect a gas leak, and inability to detect a fire. Researchers say patients with an impaired sense of smell need to be diagnosed properly and also counseled about these potential risks.