Although olfactory complaints prompt an estimated 200,000 people each year to seek medical consultation in the U.S., there is a dearth of information available in the nursing literature. Recent research links olfaction to degenerative processes in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and human immunodeficiency virus infection. This article reviews anatomy and physiology of the olfactory system, describes alterations in smell function and reviews assessment with the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test and odor detection threshold testing. Nurses can advocate thorough assessment and prompt treatment of associated conditions, and educate the patient and family regarding ways to maximize current functioning when olfaction is impaired.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Elaine Souder, RN, PhD, CS, at College of Nursing, Slot 529, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. 4301 West Markham Street, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205. She is an assistant professor in the college of nursing and health research scientist with the Little Rock VA. She was engaged in post-doctoral research training at the University of Pennsylvania at the time this was written
Linda Yoder, RN, MBA, PhD, is a major in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, currently stationed at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not purport to represent the views of the Veteran's Administration. Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.
Partial support was provided by the National Institute of Aging. Teaching Nursing Home Award P01-AG-03934.
© 1992 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses