Characteristics of olfactory disorders in relation to major causes of olfactory loss

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2002 Jun;128(6):635-41. doi: 10.1001/archotol.128.6.635.


Objective: To investigate the consequences of olfactory loss and explore specific questions related to the effect of duration of olfactory loss, degree of olfactory sensitivity, and cause of the olfactory loss.

Patients: A total of 278 consecutive patients with hyposmia or anosmia were examined.

Results: Causes of olfactory loss were categorized as follows: trauma (17%), upper respiratory tract infection (URI) (39%), sinonasal disease (21%), congenital anosmia (3%), idiopathic causes (18%), or other causes (3%). Our data suggest that (1) recovery rate was higher in URI olfactory loss than in olfactory loss from other causes; (2) likelihood of recovery seemed to decrease with increased duration of olfactory loss; and (3) the elderly are more prone to URI olfactory loss than younger patients. Regarding changes in quality of life (QoL), we found that (1) in most patients olfactory loss caused food-related problems; (2) loss in QoL did not change with duration of olfactory loss; (3) younger patients had more complaints than older ones, and women had more complaints than men; (4) complaint scores were higher in hyposmic patients than in anosmic patients; and (5) self-rated depression did not relate to measured olfactory function.

Conclusions: Among many complaints of olfactory loss, the predominant ones were food related. This loss in QoL seemed to be of greater importance in younger than in older people, and women seem to be affected more strongly than men.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Eating
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Recovery of Function
  • Self-Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors