Covid UAE: Some patients lose ability to smell for 5 months

While most patients regained their ability to do so within a few weeks, in some instances it takes several months.

Doctors in the UAE are witnessing significant cases of patients complaining of loss of smell for up to several months after the virus first strikes them, warning that this could even prove to be a major public health problem.

While loss of smell is a hallmark of Covid-19 infection but new research shows that people with the coronavirus could lose their sense of smell for up to five months.

A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine looked at Covid-19 patients in European hospitals and found that nearly 86 per cent of those with a mild case reported a loss of smell.

While most patients regained their ability to do so within a few weeks, in some instances it takes several months.

Seconding the idea, even UAE doctors talk about their experience with such patients. Dr Uzma Mehraj, General Practitioner, Aster Speciality Clinic International city, explains, “It is no surprise that the novel Covid-19 virus would also cause anosmia/hyposmia in infected patients. Post-viral anosmia is one of the leading causes of loss of sense of smell in adults, accounting for up to 30-40 per cent cases of anosmia globally. I have personally seen 10-12 patients this week all under 40 and otherwise asymptomatic except for the recent onset of anosmia and headache.”

Medics explain ‘Olfactory training’ is a self-management strategy that involves a regular programme of using strong odours or essential oils to trigger recovery of the olfactory system. “Use of corticosteroids in loss of smell is controversial and there are many arguments for and against”, adds Dr Mehraj.

Dr Krithika R.S.G., General Practitioner, Burjuman, Prime Medical Centre says, “Anosmia can be devastating for the small fraction of people in whom it’s persistent. It can have serious psychological consequences and could be a major public health problem if we have a growing population with permanent loss of smell.”

Apparently, it is not clear as to what is the exact cause for loss of smell or taste among Covid-19 patients. Dr Alaa Zedan, Specialist Internal Medicine, Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, Dubai avers,“We assume that this is the result when the Covid-19 virus binds to a protein called ACE2. This protein is found abundantly on cells in our nose and mouth.

One possibly loses the ability of smell and taste when the Covid-19 virus binds with the protein ACE2 and invades the nerve cells associated with senses of smell and taste.”

Doctors highlight that research shows that this binding around the nerve cells that facilitates the ability of smell and taste could result in infection, causing inflammation. Therefore, a person possibly faces loss of smell or taste.

Dr Prashant Sharma, Specialist ENT with Prime Hospital says, “Newly emerged literature shows that Olfactory dysfunction in Covid patients is not directly related to definitive viral damage to Olfactory cells. Non neuronal cells that express ACE2 receptors such as Olfactory sustentacular cells, bowman’s gland cells and Olfactory bulb pericytes may be the target of coronavirus. However the exact mechanism has not been elucidated. Delayed recovery might be a sign of poor prognosis and sometimes irreversible.”

Burjeel Specialties