Loss of smell with Alzheimer's

Q: I had COVID about 2 years ago (proven by testing at the Health Department) and ever since I recovered from the acute symptoms, I haven’t been able to smell much of anything.

My husband will come down the hall to the kitchen while I’m cooking and remark how good it smells, but regardless of what I’m cooking, I can’t smell it; this has affected my ability to taste different foods, as well. Recently, I read something about memory problems following COVID and that there might be some association between loss of smell and early Alzheimer’s symptoms. Has there been any formal research about this?

A: There has. Anosmia (loss of sense of smell) and ageusia (loss of sense of taste) have both been reported in at least half of patients with proven COVID-19.

Fortunately, a number of studies have shown that smell/taste generally returns within about 1 year of the acute infection in 90 percent of cases.

Regarding your main question, a well-done study was presented at the International Alzheimer’s Conference several months ago, showing that 10 percent of patients diagnosed with COVID had significant memory and attention (cognitive) problems one year later and that every one of them also had decreased senses of smell and taste, so there does appear to be an association between these sets of problems.

If you have any concerns about your cognitive status, your personal physician can conduct, or arrange for referral for, appropriate testing.

Thanks to Kathryn H. for this question. If you have any particular topic you would like to hear more about, please message me at paulmdake@gmail.com.

To learn more about this and many other health topics, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians’ website familydoctor.org, where you can click on the “I would like to find” box and enter your topic of interest.

Dr. Paul Dake, a Newberry native, is a retired family physician. He lives in Pinconning, Michigan.