Monday, February 22, 2010

Absence and Fond Hearts: The Olfactory Connection

About two years ago, my sinuses were so blocked that I actually had my doctor worried enough to order an MRI of my head and find out what was going on. Turned out to be major inflammation (whew!) which resulted in a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist. About five minutes into the exam, the ENT asked me if I'd ever done a contact sport because my septum was severely deviated. Instantly, I flashed back to a line sparring hand drill we'd done a few years earlier where my own punch was blocked and ricocheted back to whack me in the nose. I saw stars but no blood and incorrectly concluded that all was well. Umm....apparently not. (Karate "strikes" again!). He also found nasal polyps pressing against my olfactory nerve and messing with my ability to smell anything, but they appeared to be unrelated to karate...

Last week, my lungs were a little funky. An asthmatic since my high school cross country days, I can usually keep my lungs under control unless I get a cold, but that was not the case this time. As per my doc, I had to break out the heavy artillery - an anti-inflammatory medicine called prednisone to help get my ailing airways back in line. In addition to my lungs feeling better, the inflammation in my sinuses is down a bit and I can do something I haven't been able to in a while: smell! Last night, it was the whiff of coffee when I went into the local gas station to pay for my gas. This morning was my juice and the syrup on my pancakes. Right now, it's unfortunately the dog in need of a bath, but, trust me, it's better than nothing.

It's funny the things you forget you've lost until you get them back. I got so used to not being able to smell anything that when I finally could, it felt like sensory overload. I felt the same way when breast reconstruction surgery had me sidelined from karate for two months (I spent the time trying to keep my senses sharp by watching karate training videos and kung-fu movies, LOL). When I finally was all healed and able to get back to class, I felt like a kid in a candy store - kicking, blocking and kiaing all over the place.

But unlike after reconstruction, prednisone is only a temporary fix for my sense of smell. The only way to make it more permanent is to have surgery and have the polyps removed. I've resisted the idea for a while because eventually, the polyps will probably grow back and because the surgery itself will force me to be off the mat - again - at least for a bit. Sigh...

Ever have nasal surgery for polyps? Would you do it again?


  1. It must be awful not having a sense of smell (though I can think of some positive advantages living in a house full of males lol). Doesn't it mean you have lost your sense of taste as well? I believe smell and taste are closely linked. I would hate to lose my sense of taste - I enjoy my food to much!

    I can't really advise you on the operation as it's not happened to me but I think I might be tempted to go for it - much better quality of life with a sense of smell and taste!

  2. I haven't had surgery for polyps or a deviated septum, but my husband has. Same cause too. He took a whack to the nose in his first year of karate, and at the time we thought there was no real damage. He had the surgery about two years ago, and is thrilled with the results. His answer to would he have it again is "Yes! And sooner!" Of course he's always been prone to sinus headaches, and the ones he would get in the intervening years were downright vicious.

    Thus far the polyps haven't grown back, but he's not too concerned, since most of his problems seemed to be caused by the deviated septum, and that's a permanent fix unless he gets his nose conked again.