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Acupuncture Restores Smell?

Reported April 05, 2010


(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA), where very thin needles are used to stimulate specific points in the body, may be an effective treatment option for patients who suffer from loss of smell.

Persistent post-viral olfactory dysfunction (PVOD), resulting in loss of smell, can profoundly influence a patient's quality of life. The sense of smell determines the flavor of foods and beverages and serves as an early warning system for the detection of environmental hazards, such as spoiled food, leaking natural gas, smoke or airborne pollutants. The loss or distortion of smell can adversely influence food preference, food intake, and appetite.

Approximately 2 million Americans experience some type of olfactory dysfunction. One of the most frequent causes is an upper respiratory tract infection (URI). Patients frequently complain of smell loss following a viral URI. The smell loss is usually partial, and reversible. Occasionally, however, patients may also suffer from parosmia, a distortion of the sense of smell, phantosmia, smelling things that are not there, or permanent damage of the olfactory system.

 

 

To date, there is no validated pharmacotherapy for PVOD, but attempts have been made to establish a standardized treatment using systemic and topical steroids, vitamin B supplements, caroverine, alpha lipoic acid and other drugs. Researchers point out that, in addition to these treatments, patients are seeking complementary and alternative medicines on their own, and they suggest that traditional Western medicine should explore and validate their usefulness.

In the current study, 15 patients presenting to an outpatient clinic with PVOD were treated by TCA in 10 weekly, 30-minute sessions. The effects of TCA were compared to matched pairs of people suffering from PVOD who had been treated with vitamin B complex. Eight patients treated with TCA experienced improved olfactory function, compared with only two who were treated with vitamin B complex.

The authors were quoted as saying, "…the observed high response rate of about 50 percent under TCA was superior to that of vitamin B complex or that of spontaneous remission, and offers a possible new therapeutic regimen in postviral dysosmia."

 

SOURCE: Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, April 2010