Anosmia is defined as the partial or complete loss of smell, and it can occur as the result of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Our sense of smell is a function of the nerve pathway from the receptors inside the nose that send messages to the brain. Any damage to this pathway can affect the ability to smell and detect odors. The ability to smell has a direct effect on the ability to taste.
Anosmia is recognized as the most profound olfactory dysfunction. Initially, a lack of smell may sound like an inconvenience, but it can actually be quite dangerous for those affected by it. For example, imagine the inability to recognize the smell of gas leaking, fire burning, toxic fumes, or spoiled food.
Anosmia sufferers may also experience the following:
- Unhealthy increase in salt and sugar usage
- Weight gain from overeating to compensate for lack of taste
- Weight loss from a lack of interest in food
- Loss of interest in social activities
- Changes in personality
What Causes a Traumatic Brain Injury?
TBIs happen as a result of a sudden forceful blow to the head by an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. A TBI can occur in mild, moderate, or severe forms.
Examples of common traumatic brain injuries include the following:
- Concussion: Perhaps the most common form of a TBI. Concussions can cause life-long medical consequences.
- Contusion: This term describes bleeding under the skin of the brain. Sometimes, a brain contusion needs to be surgically removed if it does not stop bleeding on its own.
- Coup-contrecoup brain injury: This type of injury occurs when the force of impact causes the brain or skull to slam into the opposite side of the site of impact, resulting in damage in two locations. A serious car accident or fall can cause a coup-contrecoup brain injury.
- Diffuse axonal injury: This is a very serious injury in which the violent movement of the injury causes tears in the connections of the brain. The size of the tears determines the extent of damage and can range from microscopic to large tears. Large tears can be fatal.
- Second impact syndrome: Also known as a recurrent traumatic brain injury, a second brain injury can cause more severe brain damage than the first. Anyone who experiences a TBI and suffers another impact to the head in the following months should see a medical professional immediately.
Anosmia resulting from a head or brain injury is often referred to as post-traumatic anosmia. Some types of TBIs that lead to post-traumatic anosmia include facial or skull fractures, concussions, and a diffuse axonal injury. A TBI in any form, mild, moderate, or severe, can cause a loss of the ability to smell.
TBIs and Car Accidents
A common cause of a TBI is a motor vehicle accident. A TBI can happen when the skull of the driver, passenger, or a pedestrian, strikes an object like a windshield, steering wheel, or seat. In such a scenario, the brain collides against the hard bone of the skull, causing bruising or bleeding of the brain tissue.
Over half of all reported traumatic brain injuries are related to motor vehicle accidents. Some of these accidents are caused by driver error or negligence while others are the result of a pre-existing manufacturing defect in the vehicle.
How is Anosmia Diagnosed?
Anosmia can often go overlooked after a traumatic brain injury if a doctor neglects to ask a patient about his or her sense of smell. A study published in Surgical Neurology International found that up to 20 percent of TBI patients also experienced a disturbance to their sense of smell or olfactory dysfunction. The study also concludes that despite its prevalence, olfactory dysfunction remains underdiagnosed in patients.
When diagnosing anosmia, a doctor will typically do a physical examination of the nose and nasal cavities and then use CT or MRI scan to obtain a detailed image of the brain. The patient must then undergo tests to determine how severe the loss of smell is. Consisting of 40 different scents for identification, the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) is the most widely used diagnostic tool for anosmia. The UPSIT is considered an established and reliable objective test to measure a traumatic loss of smell. Patients must try to correctly identify specific odors and are graded against scores from a group of participants of the same age and sex.
Test results are scored on a range of one to five with one being the least amount of damage:
- mild microsmia
- moderate microsmia
- severe microsmia
How is Anosmia Treated?
Some cases of anosmia are treatable, such as those that occur because of nasal obstruction or because of sinus infections. However, there is no known treatment for anosmia caused by a TBI, which is most often a permanent condition.
It is important that a person living with anosmia make changes to his or her lifestyle for the sake of safety. Functioning smoke detectors are crucial to alert the person of fire danger, and electrical appliances are recommended. Additionally, a person with anosmia should label all foods with expiration dates to prevent food poisoning.
If a car accident victim develops anosmia due to a TBI, it is beneficial to obtain legal counsel. A TBI can result in costly treatments, and it is important to get compensation.
Highland Park Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Help Car Accident Victims with TBIs
If you have a TBI that was caused by a car accident, contact one of our Highland Park car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr today. Our team helps their clients get compensation for their injuries. Call us at 732-249-4600 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, and Colonia.