Having Trouble Tasting and Smelling? It Could Be a Sign of Sinusitis

Nearly 12% of Americans are diagnosed at some point with sinusitis — a swelling and blocking of your sinus passages that is long-lasting or recurrent. While any infection and congestion of the sinuses can lead to poor drainage and problems breathing, sinusitis can have even more dire effects long-term.

At Express Lane Urgent Care in Turlock, California, our team of medical professionals is familiar with the signs and symptoms of sinusitis and can help resolve your sinus infection. If you’ve noticed changes in your ability to smell or taste, address the issue as soon as possible to avoid damage to your sinuses.

An introduction to your sinuses

You have four pairs of sinuses located around your nose and eyes. These air-filled chambers vibrate, adding tonality to your speech, and the mucous membranes that line them filter the air you breathe.

The membranes, or mucosa, can produce up to a quart of mucus per day. As the mucus continually drains away down the back of your throat, it traps bacteria, germs, and viruses. The mucus also keeps your throat and nasal cavities from feeling dried out and scratchy.  When you have a sinus infection, your sinus cavities swell and stop draining. The trapped mucus can become infected, causing even more congestion and inflammation, which causes further swelling and blockage. It’s a vicious cycle. When this happens over and over, or happens and doesn’t go away for weeks or months, you have sinusitis.

Causes of sinusitis

Sinusitis can originate as a side effect of allergies or an upper respiratory infection, such as the cold or flu. It can also be caused by structural issues, like nasal polyps or a deviated septum. For some people, the cause of sinusitis is never identified.

Sinusitis symptoms

Common symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • Trouble breathing through your nose
  • Sinus pain and pressure, especially around your nose and eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Runny nose or stuffy nose, or even both at the same time
  • Loss or reduction of your sense of taste or smell

Of these symptoms, the last two can be the most alarming. Sinusitis directly affects smell, which indirectly affects taste because the two senses are linked — try eating a bit of apple and a bit of potato with your nose held closed, and see if you can tell the difference!

When you have sinusitis, you can’t breathe in deeply enough for scents to reach the olfactory sensory neurons high up in your nose. In addition, a viral infection in your nasal cavities can damage your highly sensitive sensory cells. Your senses also can be confused by the taste of infected mucus at the back of your throat tainting your sense of taste.

If you’ve lost some of your ability to smell or taste, don’t panic. Many people find that the loss is temporary. If you’re struggling with sinusitis, contact our office at 209-664-1550 for an appointment or simply walk-in during business hours.

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