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Acupuncture Might Help Loss of Smell from Postviral Cause

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Acupuncture might help individuals regain their sense of smell that can be lost or distorted after a viral infection. Loss of smell that can occur after experiencing an upper respiratory virus can interfere with quality of life, and in some individuals can be persistent. Traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA) was found to help loss of smell in a group of study participants treated with ten 30-minute sessions once a week.

Complete loss of smell (anosmia) and olfactory dysfunction (dysosmia) can occur from a variety of factors. In some instances smell is partially lost or distorted. Viruses from the common cold can impair smell and interfere with food taste and appetite. Impaired olfactory sense can also lower the ability to detect odors that could be dangerous from inability to detect food spoilage, gas leaks and smoke in the home.

For some individuals, loss of smell can lead to depression and malnutrition from disinterest in food, but the new study show acupuncture could be a useful treatment that can restore smell from post viral causes post- viral olfactory dysfunction (PVOD).

For the study, acupuncture was found to be superior for helping loss of smell, compared to a group of individuals given vitamin B, a suggested treatment for post viral smell loss for which there is no standardized treatment.

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Virus is one of the leading causes of loss of smell that affects approximately 2 million Americans. After a cold, olfactory dysfunction is usually temporary, but permanent damage can occur. Some individuals report smells that aren’t really there, known as phantosmia.

Fifteen patients in the study were treated for smell loss with acupuncture. A matched group was given vitamin B. Using a standardized smell test to compare the treatments revealed that eight patients treated with acupuncture experienced improvement, measured by the Sniffin' Sticks test set, compared to just two patients receiving vitamin B.

The authors say "…the observed high response rate of about 50 percent under TCA was superior to that of vitamin B complex or that of spontaneous remission, and offers a possible new therapeutic regimen in postviral dysosmia."

Acupuncture, shown by the small study could be added to the list of potential treatments for smell loss. The researchers say findings that acupuncture could be added to the list of traditional treatment for postviral loss of smell should be validated in larger studies.

Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery