with smell are common in older people. Thirty percent of older
Americans between the ages of 70 and 80 have a problem with
their sense of smell. Two out of three people over 80 have a
problem with their sense of smell.
with smell can have a big impact on the lives of older people.
Our sense of smell lets us fully enjoy the scents and
fragrances in the environment, like roses, coffee, and rain.
also important to our appreciation of food; without smell we
would not be able to fully enjoy the flavors of food and
beverages. But, even more important, smell can be a warning
signal that something is wrong in our environment. Smell helps
us to know when food is spoiled or if there is a gas leak.
of smell is part of our chemical sensing system or the "chemo
senses." Normal smell occurs when odors around us, like the
fragrance of flowers or the smell of baking bread, stimulate
the olfactory, or small nerve cells, that are responsible for
the sense of smell. The olfactory cells are located in a small
patch of tissue high inside the nose.
release microscopic molecules into the environment and
stimulate these small nerve cells. Once the cells detect the
molecules, they send messages to our brain, where we identify
people a problem with smell is a minor irritation, but for
others it may be a sign of more serious diseases and
people have a problem with smell, they may experience total or
partial loss of smell. They can sometimes think they smell bad
odors that are not actually present. People with smell
disorders usually have problems appreciating food flavors,
taste are closely linked in the brain, but are actually
distinct sensory systems. True tastes are detected by taste
buds on the tongue and are limited to sweet, salty, sour,
bitter, savory and perhaps a few other sensations.
people mistakenly believe they have a problem with taste, when
they are really experiencing a problem with their sense of
smell. Loss of smell occurs a lot more frequently than loss of
of smell does gradually decline in older people. Many older
people are not even aware that they have a problem with their
sense of smell. They may not even notice that they are
experiencing a loss of smell until it becomes very troubling.
problems with smell are rarely life-threatening, loss of smell
can be dangerous. Identifying smells is your brain's way of
providing you with information about your environment and
keeping you safe. The sense of smell often serves as a first
warning signal, alerting us to the smoke of a fire or the odor
of a natural gas leak and dangerous fumes.
is impaired, food loses its appeal and we may eat too much and
gain weight or eat too little and lose too much weight. Loss
of smell may also cause us to eat too much sugar or salt to
make our food taste better. This can be a problem for people
with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or high
blood pressure. In severe cases, loss of smell can lead to
smell may be an early sign of a more serious disease, such as
multiple sclerosis. Getting a diagnosis early will help an
individual deal better with the underlying condition or
shows that people with a total or partial loss of smell are
almost twice as likely as people with normal smell to have
certain kinds of accidents.
common types of accidents in order of frequency involve
of smell is most accurate under the age of 60. Women of all
ages are generally more accurate than men at identifying
odors. Only about one to two percent of people under the age
of 65 will experience some problem with their sense of smell.
After the age of 65, loss of the sense of smell increases.
people believe there is nothing they can do about their
diminished sense of smell. Depending on the cause of your
problem, your doctor may be able to treat your smell disorder
or suggest new ways to cope with the loss of smell. If you
think you have a problem with your sense of smell, see your