A man with a concussion lost his smell and taste

With review and feedback from CEENTA ENT doctor Adam Gigliotti, MD (Uptown)

You hit your head recently, and in addition to the pain, you’ve noticed you can’t smell or taste things as well as used to. This could be a sign that you have sustained a concussion.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a serious brain injury caused by rapid movement of the brain tissue within the skull. This rapid movement can stretch and damage brain cells, as well as cause chemical and metabolic changes within the cells. Anyone who thinks they may have a concussion should seek medical attention immediately.

Losing your senses of smell and taste

For a while, doctors thought people lost their senses of smell and taste after serious concussions only. Now, though, it’s known that even a mild concussion can trigger this loss. Minor concussions can be caused by slipping on ice, minor traffic accidents, and hitting your head while wearing a bicycle helmet.

Adam Gigliotti, MD

A decreased sense of smell after a head injury can arise from three specific causes, CEENTA ENT doctor Adam Gigliotti, MD, said. First, associated nasal injury and obstruction can prevent air flow to the nerves responsible for sensing smell. Second, the head injury can cause direct disruption of the nerve fibers that carry smell information to the brain. Finally, injury to the smell-processing centers in the brain itself can affect your ability to smell normally.

Studies have shown that people with concussions lose their sense of smell about half the time. However, many doctors don’t often think to ask about it when examining a patient. Therefore, it’s important people inform their doctors when being screened for a concussion. Even if a patient’s sense of smell is fine immediately after an accident, they should let their doctor know right away if it weakens at any time in the following weeks.

Also, because the sense of smell is a major part of the sense of taste, any loss of the sense of smell will result in a diminished sense of taste, too.

Can a CEENTA doctor help me?

“Your ear, nose, and throat doctor can perform an examination of the inside of your nose to determine if associated nasal injury is likely to be making a contribution,” Dr. Gigliotti said. “Fortunately, about a third of people with a decreased sense of smell after a head injury will recover their smell function on their own over time.”

If you have any possible signs of a concussion, don’t delay getting medical care.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. You can now schedule an appointment online with Dr. Gigliotti or any of our more than 40 ENT doctors in North and South Carolina. You can also schedule through myCEENTAchart or by calling 704-295-3000.


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