Lost Sense of Smell Returns for Almost All After COVID

By Ernie Mundell

Health Day reporter

THURSDAY, June 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A year later, almost all of the patients in a French study who lost their sense of smell after a COVID-19 attack regained this ability, the researchers report.

“Persistent anosmia linked to COVID-19 [loss of smell] has an excellent prognosis, with almost complete recovery at one year, ”according to a team led by Dr Marion Renaud, otolaryngologist at Strasbourg University Hospitals.

As the pandemic began, doctors treating people infected with SARS-CoV-2 began to realize that a sudden loss of smell was a hallmark of the disease. It is believed that COVID-related “peripheral inflammation” of nerves crucial for olfactory function is to blame in these cases.

But as the months passed and many patients failed to regain their sense of smell, some began to fear that the damage could be permanent.

The new study should allay those fears.

In their research, the French team followed the smell of 97 patients (67 women, 30 men), on average around 39 years old. All of them had lost their sense of smell after contracting COVID-19.

Patients were asked about any improvement in their olfactory capacity at four months, eight months and then one year after the onset of loss of smell. About half also underwent specialized tests to assess their ability to smell.

After four months, objective testing of 51 of the patients showed that about 84% (43) had already recovered their sense of smell, while six of the remaining eight patients had done so after eight months. Only two of the 51 patients who had been analyzed using the specialized tests had an altered smell one year after their initial diagnosis, according to the results.

Overall, 96% of patients objectively recovered within 12 months, Renaud’s team reported. The study was published online on June 24 in JAMA network open.

Dr Theodore Strange is Acting Director of Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, New York. He was not involved in the new study, but called the results “very encouraging.”

Continued

“The good news is that the loss of smell is not a permanent sequel to COVID disease,” Strange said.

This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Eric Cioe-Peña, director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, NY. He said the results, while very welcome, should remind everyone – especially young people – that infection with SARS-CoV-2 can do a lot of harm in the long run.

“It is important that while the public is reviewing the vaccine, some to determine if the ‘risk is worth the benefit’, that we take into account not only hospitalization and death, but those ‘long term’ symptoms, which may affect people months and years after the virus itself has healed, ”Cioe-Peña noted.

“The most important thing to take away from this study,” he said, “is to get the vaccine and prevent exposure to long-term symptoms in the first place.”

More information

To learn more about the effect of COVID-19 on smell, visit Harvard Medical School.

SOURCES: Eric Cioe-Peña MD, director, Global Health, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, NY; Theodore Strange, MD, acting president, medicine, Staten Island University Hospital, New York City; JAMA network open, June 24, 2021, online

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