Monday, October 23, 2006

I can't smell food, so I can't taste food

It's hard to explain to people why I cannot taste anything that I eat. When I tell them it's because I can't smell anything they cannot grasp why that affects my sense of taste. I usually leave it at, "You know how food is tasteless when you have a cold?" That usually drives the message home that your sense of taste is really derived from you ability to smell. As you chew food or drink liquid, it's actually the aroma from this that is getting to your brain.

They get confused though when I tell them that yes, I can "taste" salt, sweet, sour etc. Or that if I eat a hot pepper, yes, I do feel the burning sensation. But for instance, if I were to eat a piece of cake, I could taste/feel the sweetness of the sugar on the vanilla frosting but I am unable to actually taste the vanilla itself. Or if I eat a sour apple, I can feel the sourness but cannot actually taste the apple. It can be frustrating and I usually don't even say anything when someone says, "Wow that was a great meal, how was yours?" I usually just say it was really good.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nasonex, Flonase - Allergies!

I actually have found humor in my problems with allergies, sinus polyps and anosmia. You'd be hard pressed to find something amusing about not being able to taste a cup of coffee in the morning or to smell a pizza but during my never ending attempt to restore my sinuses to some workable condition, I've tried some amazing stuff.

After my sinus surgery to remove the polyps, my ENT advised that I do a twice daily treatment of Nasonex, Flonase or some similar corticosteroid. As my insurance offers better coverage on the Nasonex, that is what I've been on.

Now, Nasonex, like all the others, is a metered spray that you blast into your nostrils. The hope in my case is that this will decrease inflammation and also keep future polyps from growing. You simply spray the Nasonex into your nose.

However, after having no effect for months, it was suggested that I need to get this spray way up high in my sinuses. Since gravity is in play, the spray will not get high up in the sinus cavity while you're standing.

So what to do?

One morning, just after I had gotten out of the shower. I took the Nasonex for my morning ritual. This time however, immediately after spraying the Nasonex into my nose, I plopped down on the bed on my back with my head inverted and hanging over the edge of the bed. The goal of course was to allow as much of the Nasonex to reach my sinus cavity as possible.

The effect however was different: As I lay there with my head hanging off the bed, naked as the day I was born but certainly not as cuddly or cute, my wife walked into the bedroom.

If she thought I'd had a heart attack and collapsed in this position or that I was performing some strange sexual ritual she did not let on but stopped in her tracks for a moment.

Noticing her standing in the doorway to my side but not wanting to turn my head for fear the Nasonex wouldn't reach its target I simply offered, "Good morning!" To which this beautiful woman I've lived with for over 22 years replied, "Honey? What....are you doing?"

Before I could even offer my scientific explanation, she simply rolled her eyes, turned around and said, "Coffee's on"

Saturday, October 14, 2006

No sense of smell, allergies and nasal polyps

When we got back from NYC it became apparent that something was going on. Literally overnight I was not able to smell anything. And with that loss of smell goes your sense of taste as well. It would come and go but for the most part, any olfaction (sense of smell) that I had was severely compromised.

I decided I'd go to my doctor and let him take a look. Maybe it was just a sinus infection? He is a good doctor but he said he could see nothing wrong but as a precaution, prescribed some antibiotics. These of course proved pointless. I kept having fleeting moments of olfaction but it was becoming increasingly frustrating and to be quite honest, depressing.

I had some sinus surgery a few years prior so I paid a visit to my ENT to see what he could do. After scoping me out and ordering a CT Scan he told me that I had a terrible situation with nasal/sinus polyps. They needed to come out and with luck, I'd be able to smell again.

For those that don't know, anosmia is typically caused by one of three factors.

  • Head Trauma
  • Viral infection
  • Sinus inflammation or polyps

As I'd had no head trauma and wan't truly able to pinpoint any kind of cold (virus), plus the fact that my olfaction had come and gone for some time, it seemed as if the cause was sinus inflammation caused by my polyps and constant allergies. I was relieved because if your anosmia is caused by head trauma or infection, it almost certainly will not come back.

The surgery was scheduled for the end of January 2006. Now keep in mind that my sense of smell, while greatly diminished and fleeting, did make brief returns. By brief I mean a few minutes here and there.

I was prescribed prednisone for pre-surgery and knowing very little about all of this, was amazed at how my sense of smell came back completely. My ENT had told me this would happen but to not get too excited since it would be temporary.

Well, my surgery was a success in that the polyps were removed. Unfortunately, after the prednisone wore off a few days after my surgery, my ability to smell was gone once again.

My ENT said that there was hope but that I needed to see an allergist, stay on a daily regimine of cortico-steroid sprays (for life) and needed to do daily nasal rinses. Without these, the polyps would probably come back.

As for my sense of smell, since my surgery it has virtually disappeared. There have been moments where it returned and in fact in late March of 2006 I had a spell of 3 days where it was back. Alas, as of this date, it has been gone almost entirely other than another round of prednisone with my allergist.

I am remaining hopeful. Maybe it's naive or pollyanna-ish. But I will continue to try to find a way to restore what I've lost.

Friday, October 13, 2006

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

I guess I probably could have started this blog a year ago but better late than never. It was October of 2005 that I first realized I had a problem with my sense of smell. Now, before I get into the particulars, I will say that over the past few years, whenever I'd have a drink or a cigar, I'd notice a drastic reduction in my ability to smell something. I can't remember how many times I'd be getting ready to cook something for me and my wife, say a barbecue, and I'd have a cocktail while getting things ready only to have to ask my wife to smell something to make sure it was fresh.

I guess I just never thought anything of it. I'd always heard that alcohol can dull senses in some people so I chalked it up to that and figured that if I wanted to enjoy a drink, that was the price I had to pay.

The word anosmia never even existed in my vocabulary until last October. My wife and I were visiting NYC for our first trip to the Big Apple. What a great time! That was one of the best vacations ever. Of course, being New York, we did a lot of walking and of course eating and drinking.

We had taken the subway from mid-town to Little Italy where we had a nice lunch. I should mention that over the summer I had been smoking a cigar every night so of course I brought some to New York with us. While in Little Italy we stumbled across a cigar shop so I went in. The owner was a great guy and when I told him what type of cigars I liked he offered me some handmade premiums. While walking back to the subway I lit one up. It was one of the most enjoyable cigars I'd ever smoked. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be one of the last times I was able to taste a good cigar.

That night, we were eating dinner and about halfway through I realized I couldn't taste my food. I felt fine but said to my wife, "I can't taste anything, I wonder if I'm getting a cold". We both brushed it off and continued our dinner and had a great time with the rest of our trip but the loss of taste really bugged me.
At that time I never even realized that not only could I not taste anything, I could not smell anything either!