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Complaints of olfactory disorders: epidemiology, assessment and clinical implications

Nordin, Steven; Brämerson, Annika

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: February 2008 - Volume 8 - Issue 1 - p 10–15
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3282f3f473
Upper airway disease: Edited by Ruby Pawankar and David P. Skoner

Purpose of review Recent studies illuminate the difficulties that patients with olfactory disorder face in daily life, which underlines the need to understand its prevalence, and to diagnose and treat these patients. The purpose of the present review is to characterize olfactory disorders and describe associated complaints, present recent insights into epidemiology, suggest procedures to assess these disorders, and discuss clinical implications.

Recent findings A compilation of previous and new studies of olfactory disorders suggests associated complaints of poor quality of life, depression, and various specific consequences. Epidemiological studies show that loss in odor sensitivity is common in both general and clinical populations, whereas dysosmia is less common in general populations but frequent in clinical populations. The most common etiologies are post-upper respiratory infection, nasal/sinus disease and head trauma.

Summary Procedures to diagnose olfactory disorders and to identify etiologies are available. Depending on etiology, certain types of treatment are often successful, such as endoscopic sinus surgery and corticosteroid administration in nasal/sinus disease. In post-upper respiratory infection and head trauma, spontaneous recovery is fairly high. In any case, it is advisable to counsel the patient with regards to strategies to cope with olfactory disorders.

aDepartment of Psychology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

bDepartment of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Örebro University Hospital, Örebro, Sweden

cDepartment of Otorhinolaryngology, Central Hospital, Skövde, Sweden

Correspondence to Steven Nordin, PhD, Department of Psychology, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden Tel: +46 90 7866006; fax: +46 90 7866695; e-mail:

Copyright © 2008 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.