Eyewitness News Channel 9, WFTV, recently interviewed Dr. Hao “Mimi” Tran, M.D., F.A.C.S., a board-certified otolaryngologist at The Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates. Her practice is seeing a rise in the number of patients troubled by a lack of smell after a bout with COVID-19. She stated, “Smell is one of those senses that we take for granted until we lose it.”
Why Does COVID-19 Cause You to Lose Your Sense of Smell?
It appears that COVID-19 disrupts the olfactory cells in the upper nasal cavity. While we don’t yet completely understand the relationship between the coronavirus and a loss of smell, more research is coming in and we’re beginning to understand the answer.
Harvard Medical School worked with an international team of researchers to study the effects of COVID-19 on our sense of smell. They determined that the delicate support cells that carry a scent to the brain are a primary target of COVID-19. Researchers said there is more to study, but, a “SARS-CoV-2 infection is unlikely to permanently damage olfactory neural circuits.” That is good news for COVID patients, who, Dr. Tran says, “are very alarmed by their loss of smell.”
At this point, we know that hyposmia, which is a decreased sense of smell, or anosmia, the complete loss of smell, is an early indicator that you have the COVID-19 virus. But there are all kinds of conditions that can cause the temporary or even permanent loss of smell, such as a sinus infection, a cold, or even Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. We know that respiratory viruses can cause a temporary or permanent loss of smell and dysgeusia, or distortions in how things taste. Early studies show COVID-19 affects up to 98% of afflicted patients in this way, whether it is just some loss of sensation or full anosmia.
The data tells us one in five people over the age of 40 have at least some loss of smell. That means if you’re experiencing hyposmia or anosmia it doesn’t automatically mean you have COVID-19.