Diagnosing Loss of Smell (Part 2)


This is part 2 of a 2 part series on Diagnosing loss of smell. Part 1 of the article is here.

After the patient sees the ENT doctor and neurologist, the neurologist will usually order an Olfactory  Nerve Evoked Potentials test to help confirm the patients loss of smell.

This test measures electrical activity in the nerve as various smells are introduced.

Along with the Olfactory Nerve Potential Test,  there will be specialized smell testing.

The most common smell test is called the Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test. This is a multiple choice test where 40 odors in a strip are scratched off and the attempt is made to identify the. The results are graded against a cohort by sex and by age.

This is done because women at all ages typically have a better sense of smell than men.

Further, the sense of smell diminishes with age, so it’s important to compare the person tested against similar individuals.

Sometimes, in lieu of the Pennsylvania test,  a smell or odor threshold test is done to specify the degree of the loss.

If the Olfactory Never Potential Test and the smell testing both are positive, a diminution or loss of smell is confirmed.

A loss of smell is a very severe injury as it impacts, smell, emotional memory and often safety and occupational opportunities.

Does Loss of Smell Get Better?

If loss of smell is caused by trauma, around 1/3 of people tested show some improvement within 2 years.  20 Percent of the individuals worsen.

The rest remain the same. Nerve cells in the olfactory system can regenerate, but the results vary.

On the Horizon

A lot of research is being done with stem cells to try to heal smell loss. The idea would be to regrow injured olfactory nerve endings.

Additionally, some work  is being done in  Germany on odor training.  The idea is to reduce calcium content in the nasal passages using a sodium citrate buffer to rinse the nasal cavity. This is still in the testing stage.

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Brain and Head Injury attorney. Over the years, I’ve had many cases where clients have suffered a loss of smell.

Feel free to call me anytime in Sacramento at 916-921-6400 .

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