Presbyosmia

Douglas J Lanska MD FAAN MS MSPH (Dr. Lanska of the Great Lakes VA Healthcare System and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Originally released April 21, 2013; last updated January 29, 2017; expires January 29, 2020

This article includes discussion of presbyosmia, age-related loss of smell, central hyposmia, conductive hyposmia, and sensorineural hyposmia. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.

Overview

In this article, the author explains the clinical presentation, pathophysiology, diagnostic workup, and management of presbyosmia. Presbyosmia (literally “elderly olfaction” or “old age olfaction”) is the gradual loss of olfactory abilities that occurs in most people as they grow older. Age-related losses of smell (presbyosmia) are common in the elderly and result from normal aging, certain diseases (especially Parkinson disease and dementia with Lewy bodies), medications, surgical interventions, and prior environmental exposures.

Key points

 

• Presbyosmia (literally “elderly olfaction” or “old age olfaction”) is the gradual loss of olfactory abilities that occurs in most people as they grow older.

 

• Clinically significant olfactory loss is common in the elderly, but is frequently unrecognized, in part because deficits typically begin insidiously and accumulate gradually over decades.

 

• Age-related losses of smell (presbyosmia) are common in the elderly and result from normal aging, certain diseases (especially Parkinson disease and dementia with Lewy bodies), medications, surgical interventions, and prior environmental exposures.

 

• There is no established treatment for presbyosmia.

Historical note and terminology

Decreased smell is referred to as hyposmia, microsmia, or olfactory hypesthesia, whereas absent smell is referred to as anosmia (Lanska 2014). Presbyosmia (literally “elderly olfaction” or “old age olfaction”) is the gradual loss of olfactory abilities that occurs in most people as they grow older (Lanska 2014).

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