What Your Sense of Smell May Tell About Infection
NBA star Rudy Gobert, the first professional basketball player to test positive for the coronavirus, announced on Twitter that he’s experiencing some unusual side effects. On March 22, 2020, Gobert tweeted:
“Just to give you guys an update, loss of smell and taste is definitely one of the symptoms, haven’t been able to smell anything for the last 4 days. Anyone experiencing the same thing?”
In a New York Times report, physicians around the world are confirming that loss of smell (anosmia) and a diminished sense of taste (ageusia) are telltale symptoms of COVID-19.
What this means is that coronavirus attacks the brain.
Recent brain imaging scans reveal acute coronavirus encephalitis, which indicates an infection in the brain. According to the scientist who posted these images on Instagram, the concern that prompted this patient to seek an evaluation? Loss of smell.
The scientist wrote on Instagram:
“COVID-19 is generally associated with mild upper respiratory tract infections, although it has been shown to have neuroinvasive properties. In vivo studies have shown that it may infect neurons and cause encephalitis.”
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, which is most commonly caused by a viral infection. In the images in this post, the white parts show the brain’s reaction to an infection.
Sense of Smell and the Brain
The area of the brain involved with smell is called the olfactory cortex. It is situated near the brain’s memory centers. This is part of the reason why the sense of smell is intricately linked to memory. Your senses—smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing—linked with emotion are the raw ingredients for making memories.
Outside of COVID-19, loss of smell has been widely recognized as an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that having trouble smelling peanut butter, lemon, strawberries or natural gas is associated with a higher incidence of significant memory problems. Scoring poorly on the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test strongly predicts those who would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
To date, it remains unclear if the loss of smell some people are experiencing from coronavirus is temporary or if it will be long-lasting. And we don’t yet understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 on brain function. However, the infection’s impact on the brain and the potential for encephalitis are more reasons why we all need to take it very seriously.
If You Experience Loss of Smell or Taste
Physicians are reporting that in some cases, loss of smell or taste is the only symptom of COVID-19 in otherwise seemingly healthy individuals. What’s troublesome is that these people may be spreading the disease to others because they don’t realize they are infected with the virus.
Doctors are advising that if you are experiencing loss of smell—for example, the inability to detect your baby’s dirty diaper or to tell the scent of curry from cinnamon—it is best to self-isolate for 7 days to slow the spread of the virus.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or other mental health issues, you aren’t alone—45% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their mental health. Just because you’re sheltering at home doesn’t mean you have to wait for the pandemic to be over before seeking help. In fact, during these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting to get treatment is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.
At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.