I lost my sense of smell four years ago. The doctors told me that it is natural and that it is not a sickness



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I lost my sense of smell four years ago. The doctors told me that it is natural and that it is not a sickness.

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As far back as I can remember I never had a sense of smell. It may have been caused by a head injury that I received as an infant. Up until I was about 8 or 9 I would lie about my disability, since what kid wants to be different? Smelling seemed to me like religion, you just had to have enough faith to make it true. I have never had any tests or received any treatment. I am still a decent smell liar. "Darling, what is that perfume you are wearing? It smells intoxicating!" I read an article recently about somebody with no sense of smell who could not taste the difference between mint, peanut butter, or cherry ice cream. I can easily taste the differences between these foods, but I would have no sensation if each were placed in front of my face. I have always assumed that my taste buds became more acute to make up for my faulty sniffer. So obviously texture also plays a major role for me. I have never been able to receive any sensation from smelling things. I do notice gasoline if it were nearby. The vapors feel differently when I breathe.

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The following facts should be of great interest to you as I have discovered ways of regaining a lost sense of smell and taste. I lost my sense of smell 25 years ago. A few years later I was diagnosed with nasal polyps. The polyps were surgically removed, however, the sense of smell did not return. Ten years ago I had a second surgery for polyps and this time my sense of smell returned within hours of the surgery. Since then my sense of smell came and went several times. During a time when my senses had disappeared I developed polymyalgia rheumatica and was treated with Prednisolone. The strange thing was that my senses re-appeared and have been fairly reliable since. Earlier this year they disappeared again, but immediately came back again following a game of tennis — I have been convinced that lack of circulation could be part of the problem. Just over a week ago my senses disappeared again and coincidentally my polymyalgia rheumatica flared up — I took 15 mg of prednisolone at 9.30 am and my senses returned at 4.00 pm the same day. I hope that this information will help you to shed some light on this dreadful infliction.

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At one point my asthma was particularly troubling me, so my allergist put me on a course of systemic steroids for about a week. On the second or third day as I picked up my baby son, I realized that I could smell him and this in turn made me realized that this was the first time I ever smelled him; I must have had no sense of smell for at least several months and the steroid brought it back. After the systemic steroids were discontinued, I lost my sense of smell again. The ear nose throat doctor found conspicuous polyps in my nose. I spent ridiculous amounts of time every day with my nose to my son's little head, just inhaling his smell. I don't know if anyone can comprehend what it's like missing that primal connection to your child. There is something profound and powerful about a mother smelling her baby that I cannot explain, but it is viscerally important. So I don't know when I ceased to smell, but it was gradual enough that I didn't notice. That said, the absence of smell is unspeakably painful. I am not a tearful person, but thinking about how I was unable to smell my second and third children I feel something I can only describe as mourning. It is equivalent to missing out on important stages of their development, like first steps. I have always loved to cook, but since I cannot taste food... can you even comprehend what this does to a cook? One of the things that gave me greatest joy in life was cooking for my extended family, and now it's nearly impossible to do so. Perhaps this sounds strange, but I ended up gaining almost twenty pounds before realizing I was consuming more of every food in an effort to taste it. I now gravitate toward salty or sweet foods. A salad is no longer appetizing because the subtle flavor of the greens is gone, as is the complexity of any dressing, so it is like eating paper with glue. Creamy textures are more satisfying somehow. I treat the rare occasions on which I have to take systemic steroids to control my asthma as holidays during which I try to schedule nothing else but interesting meals and time to smell my children. The other thing I've noticed during my anosmia vacations is just how rich the world becomes when you can smell. The rich smell of the earth after a rain, the offensive smells of cow manure or diapers, the smell of exhaust from other cars. Another embarrassing thing I've run into was when my last two children were babies — I wouldn't notice that they had a dirty diaper, of course. I had to set an alarm to check my third child's diaper every 30 minutes because I never knew when she was going to be dirty, and she was very susceptible to rashes. I remember two different mothers who treated me with great disgust, as if I didn't care about my child or hygiene, almost as if I were abusive. I had another horrible experience when I apparently left a load of laundry in the washing machine for too long. The head of the day camp where I was sending my daughter took me aside on the third day of the week and asked why I was sending my daughter to camp in clothing that smelled of mildew, and if there was some problem at home, etc. It was absolutely mortifying. My daughter was too young to say anything about it, so there I was. It's a source of enormous anxiety for me. People simply don't believe you when you say you have no sense of smell! Speaking of hygiene, I also cannot tell when I smell and need to take precautions to make sure I'm not offending others. I've realized that it's much easier for me to forget to put on deodorant now, and also to brush my teeth. I know this is difficult to believe for others, but I don't think people realize how closely tied hygiene and smell really are in terms of actual self-care. I don't care as much ultimately about what the public awareness of this condition is; I'm resigned to anosmia being a joke for those who don't have it. I do wish that doctors took it more seriously. I have talked to too many doctors who did not believe that I cannot smell. Some want to blame me, saying I'm simply not taking my nasal steroid properly or often enough. (I have gotten quite religious about it, but it works only intermittently and never to the extent of the systemic prednisone.) One especially ignorant fellow just didn't believe that I'm unable to smell anything at all and treated me as if I were some hysterical female, telling me it was entirely psychosomatic. This needs to change, and this is why I've just spent the last 45 minutes pouring all this out for you.


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