Over the past 18 months Communitas Clinics has experienced an increase in the number of patients referred because they have lost their sense of smell. While this debilitating condition is not uncommon, the significant increase in cases is due to Covid-19.
Covid-19 is known to negatively affect the sense of smell in over 60 per cent of those who have had it. Although around 90% of these find their sense of smell improves naturally within a few weeks, for some it can become a long-term problem.
In fact, ever since Communitas Clinics restarted face-to-face appointment after the first lockdown and began addressing the backlog of patients requiring FNE (Fiberoptic nasoendoscopy), we have seen a significant rise in the number of patients being referred to our Community ENT services with anosmia symptoms.
Having a reduced sense of smell, or not being able to smell at all, is a serious matter. It can cause sufferers to lose interest in food, either cooking or eating it – which can be of particular concern in the elderly. It can also lead to people eating food that has gone off. Worryingly, people with anosmia may be unable to detect smoke-filled aims or toxic fumes.
There are various levels of and reasons for smell loss, including:
- Anosmia – the complete absence of the sense of smell.
- Acquired anosmia – due to illness or injury.
- Hyposmia – a reduced sense of smell.
Alongside Covid-19 common causes of anosmia include long-term rhinitis, hay-fever, flu and even the common cold.
There are a variety of ways to tackle anosmia, once the consultant has pinpointed the likely cause. For example, treating allergies using medication can help restore a sense of smell. It may be that the condition is caused by nasal polyps or nasal deformities which may require surgery. For those whose symptoms began with Covid-19 might benefit from nasal sprays and a course of steroids.
There are also steps that a patient can take to help their recovery by retraining their sense of smell, called ‘smell training’. The British Rhinological Society (BRS), ENT UK and UK charity AbScent have created a free online programme to support recovery from anosmia.
This provides a number of resources, including advice on smell training techniques, information on the ‘Snif’ app and support articles giving helpful insight into self-help as well as myths about the condition.
Our own Clinical Team has found this tool effective in promoting self-management of the condition by patients, who have gone on to experience improvements in their symptoms. Some members of the Clinical Team have used this resource for their own condition and are firm advocates of its benefits.
To access the resource, follow this link: https://abscent.org/nosewell