Problems with Smell

Frequently Asked Questions

15. How are smell disorders diagnosed?

Scientists have developed tests to determine the nature and extent of a person's smell disorder. Tests measure the smallest amount of odor patients can detect as well as how accurately a person can identify different smells.

An easily administered "scratch and sniff" test allows a person to scratch pieces of paper treated to release different odors, sniff them, and try to identify each odor from a list of possibilities. In this way, doctors can determine whether a person has a decreased ability to smell (hyposmia), the inability to detect any odors (anosmia), or another kind of smell disorder.

In some cases, your doctor may need to perform a nasal examination with a nasal endoscope, an instrument that illuminates and magnifies the areas of the nose where the problem may exist. This test can help identify the area and extent of the problem and help your doctor select the right treatment.

If your doctor suspects that upper regions of the nose and nasal sinuses that can't be seen by an endoscope are involved, he or she may order a specialized X-ray procedure, usually a CT scan, to look further into the nose and sinuses.