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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Congenital anosmia

Other Names for this Disease
  • ANIC
  • Isolated congenital anosmia
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Your Question

Is there any hope for a return of smell for someone who has never smelled? I have been diagnosed by several neurologists and had the round of brain MRI with contrast and other tests. No one found a cause for my anosmia. I just wondered if there is anything that could be done to restore it after 45 years.

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

How might congenital anosmia be treated?

Unfortunately, there is limited information in the available medical literature about the treatment of congenital anosmia. Currently there is no known cure or treatment for this condition.[1]
Last updated: 4/9/2012

What causes congenital anosmia?

Congenital anosmia may be associated with specific genetic disorders (such as Kallmann syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome) or may occur as an isolated abnormality. It has been reported that in affected individuals, MRI may show that the olfactory bulb and olfactory tract are aplastic (undeveloped), hypoplastic (underdeveloped), or normal.[2]

Although the specific cause of congenital anosmia remains largely unknown, it is likely related to abnormal development of the olfactory system during early fetal development.[3] Most likely there is more than one cause. The presence of reports of Kallmann syndrome and isolated congenital anosmia in different members of the same family (including among identical twins) suggests that there may be one causative gene with incomplete penetrance, or multifactorial inheritance (interaction between genes and environment that predisposes an individual to the condition).[3] A 2004 study involving several individuals with isolated congenital anosmia reported that it appeared to be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait and that it may be due to mutations somewhere on chromosome 18, although no specific causative genes were identified.[4]
Last updated: 4/9/2012

  • Leopold D, et al. Disorders of Taste and Smell. Emedicine. June 24, 2009; Accessed 3/9/2011.
  • Huart C, Meusel T, Gerber J, Duprez T, Rombaux P, Hummel T. The depth of the olfactory sulcus is an indicator of congenital anosmia. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. November-December 2011; 32(10):1911-1914.
  • Assouline S, Shevell MI, Zatorre RJ, Jones-Gotman M, Schloss MD, Oudjhane K. Children who can't smell the coffee: isolated congenital anosmia. J Child Neurol. April 1998; 13(4):168-172.
  • Marla J. F. O'Neill. ANOSMIA, ISOLATED CONGENITAL; ANIC. OMIM. June 2, 2006; Accessed 4/9/2012.