Having Trouble Tasting and Smelling? This Could Be a Sign of Sinusitis

Can't smell? You may have sinusitis.

When your sinuses are inflamed and not draining properly, the effects can be fairly obvious as congestion hampers your ability to breathe and leads to pain and discomfort. But if you’re also experiencing a loss of taste and smell, the cause may stem from the same problem — sinusitis.

At Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center, Dr. Wade Han and our team specialize in nasal problems, and we understand the widespread impact this seemingly small area of your health can have on your overall wellness. For patients in Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida, who are struggling with the symptoms of sinusitis, we’ve pulled together a basic primer on the problem and how it can affect your health and your senses.

If you’re having trouble tasting and smelling, here’s a look at why sinusitis may be at the root of the problem.

Sinuses — empty by design

You have four pairs of sinuses located around your nose and eyes, and these spaces play several key roles. To start, your sinuses aid in your speech as the air-filled chambers vibrate, providing tone to your voice (think about how your voice changes when you’re stuffed up).

The other key role your sinuses play is that of mucus production. Lining your sinuses are mucous membranes called mucosa, which produce about a quart of mucus per day. This mucus filters the air you breathe, trapping any harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses, and draining them away down the back of your throat. This mucus also aids in keeping your nasal cavities healthy and moisturized.

With sinusitis, these cavities are unable to drain properly and the backed-up mucus can become infected, leading to inflammation and congestion inside your sinuses.

The many faces of sinusitis

Sinusitis can develop for many reasons. For example, congestion in your sinuses is often part and parcel of an upper respiratory infection, such as the cold or flu. As well, allergies can wreak havoc on your sinuses, leading to inflammation that blocks your mucus.

Sinus issues that are chronic, meaning they last three months or more, can be brought about by ongoing problems with allergies or structural issues, like a deviated septum or nasal polyps.

The effects of sinusitis

Whether acute or chronic, sinusitis can have a significant impact on your health, leading to:

Among these symptoms lies an unlikely effect — a loss or reduction of your sense of smell and taste.

Let’s start with your loss of smell. First, because of the congestion that often comes with sinusitis, you’re unable to breathe in deeply enough to reach the olfactory sensory neurons higher up in your nose to initiate smell in the first place.

Second, the viral infection inside your nasal passageways can temporarily (or permanently) damage your highly sensitive sensory cells.

Your sense of taste and its relationship to sinusitis is trickier. The condition doesn’t necessarily lead to a direct loss of taste, but it can alter the sense because your sense of smell and taste are linked. Taste and smell work in lockstep, and when you lose one, the other is compromised.

Your sense of taste may also be altered because of a pervading foul taste brought on my infected mucus at the back of your mouth and throat.

The bottom line is that the sooner you come in to see us for treatment, the sooner we can restore order among your senses. If you suspect you have sinusitis, please call us so we can set up an appointment.

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