More than one million Americans could lose their sense of smell to COVID-19 forever

It turns out that surviving a global pandemic can come at a personal cost.

More than one million U.S. citizens infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus have suffered a prolonged loss of sense of smell in a condition called anosmia, and up to 1.6 million people in the country have endured chronic anosmia that lasted at least six months after the coronavirus infection, according to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology.

While only a small proportion of those suffering from chronic anosmia from COVID-19 infection may lose their sense of smell, the virus was so widespread that a significant number of people did.

The number of survivors of COVID-19 with loss of sense of smell is increasing

Anosmia has many possible causes, but one of them is a respiratory viral infection. Just like COVID-19. We would like to know this in advance, but it took time for health experts to gather enough data to understand whether anosmia is a definite symptom of COVID-19 coronavirus infection. Usually this loss of smell comes with a loss of taste, as the two senses are interconnected. Sometimes people infected with the virus can suffer from parosmia, which is a mixed sense of smell that can lead to strange experiences in which ordinary daily odors cause the smell of sewage, garbage or other indescribably horrifying odors.

Earlier studies suggest this 30% to 80% of people who become infected with COVID-19 will also experience some degree of anosmia. But almost 90% of them later regain their sense of smell, often in just two weeks, as the infection usually damages the cells that support the olfactory nerve, not the nerve itself. The COVID-19 pandemic was very common in the United States, which means that even a statistically rare complication such as chronic anosmia can change the lives of many people. “Over the past few months, my colleagues and I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients seeking medical care for olfactory dysfunction,” said otolaryngologist Jay Pickirillo of the University of Washington, St. Louis, who is also an editor at JAMA Otolaryngology. a Gizmodo report.

Five percent of all cases of COVID-19 anosmia will experience permanent odor loss

Starting with predictions of how widespread COVID-19 is, Pikirilo and his fellow researchers assessed the chances of someone developing anosmia from a coronavirus infection, in addition to the likelihood of suffering from chronic anosmia. According to their study, somewhere between 700,000 and 1.6 million American citizens have suffered a loss or change in their sense of smell that lasted more than six months, in direct connection with COVID-19 infection, by August 2021. And that number could be a charitable understatement, the researchers added in the report. To make matters worse, the pandemic has not yet reached a technical end, which means that many more of us are still waiting to catch the disease and see if our sense of smell survives with us.

“Most cases (~ 90%) of virus-related anosmia resolve within two weeks – including COVID,” Pikirilo said in the report. “The prognosis for long-term olfactory dysfunction [which is greater than six months] not so good. Less than 20% can expect to regain their scent after 6 months. “If it’s not dark enough, he added that approximately 5% of all cases of anosmia will experience permanent loss of all or part of their sense of smell. that there may be a way to help treat these victims in the years and decades to come, it seems all the rest of us can do is enjoy our sense of smellwhile we can.

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