An unmet need: Patients with smell and taste disorders

Clin Otolaryngol. 2020 Mar;45(2):197-203. doi: 10.1111/coa.13484. Epub 2019 Dec 19.


Objectives: There are large numbers of patients with olfactory disturbance in the UK and shortfalls in assessment and support amongst mainstream practice in both primary and secondary care leading to significant quality-of-life impairment and potential missed diagnoses. The aim of this study was to determine the key themes which can be identified from the accounts of anosmia sufferers and to identify important areas to target for future research or service development.

Design: Qualitative analysis of written patient accounts from patients corresponding with a tertiary smell and taste clinic in the UK. This qualitative study utilised unstructured written patient accounts from consenting patients experiencing olfactory disturbances received by the smell and taste clinic. Framework analysis was performed using Nvivo 10 software.

Setting: Tertiary smell and taste clinic.

Participants: Consenting patients who contacted the smell and taste clinic with accounts of their experiences.

Main outcome measures: Themes generated by qualitative analysis with Nvivo software.

Results: Accounts submitted by 71 participants were included in the analysis; age range 31-80 years, 45 females, 26 males. Themes identified include negative emotional impact, feelings of isolation, impaired relationships and daily functioning, impact on physical health and the difficulty and financial burden of seeking help.

Conclusions: Olfactory disturbances have a wide-ranging impact on the lives of sufferers, compounded by a lack of knowledge of the disorder amongst clinicians. There is a role for further support and education both for sufferers and for clinicians, as well as a need to improve our understanding of olfactory disturbance.

Keywords: anosmia; depression; hyposmia; olfaction; phantosmia; quality of life; rhinology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Taste Disorders / physiopathology