What causes olfactory dysfunction?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Eric H Holbrook, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Disturbances in olfaction can result from pathologic processes at any level along the olfactory pathway. They can be classified in a way analogous to otologic dysfunction, as conductive or sensorineural defects. In conductive (ie, transport) defects, transmission of an odorant stimulus to the olfactory neuroepithelium is disrupted. Sensorineural defects involve the more central neural structures. Overall, the most common causes of primary olfactory deficits are aging, nasal and/or sinus disease, prior viral upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), and head trauma. [13]

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