Increasing incidence of parosmia and phantosmia in patients recovering from COVID-19 smell loss [article]

Kathrin Ohla, Maria G Veldhuizen, Tomer Green, Mackenzie E Hannum, Alyssa J Bakke, Shima Moein, Arnaud Tognetti, Elbrich M Postma, Robert Pellegrino, Liang-Dar Hwang, Javier Albayay, Sachiko Koyama (+28 others)
2021 medRxiv   pre-print
Importance: Sudden smell loss is a specific early symptom of COVID-19, with an estimated prevalence of ~40% to 75%. Smell impairment affects physical and mental health, and dietary behavior. Thus, it is critical to understand the rate and time course of smell recovery. Objective: To characterize smell function and recovery up to 11 months post COVID-19 infection. Settings, Participants: This longitudinal survey of individuals suffering COVID-19-related smell loss assessed disease symptoms and
more » ... statory and olfactory function. Participants (n=12,313) who completed an initial respiratory symptoms, chemosensory function, and COVID-19 diagnosis survey (S1) between April and September 2020 and completed a follow-up survey (S2) between September 2020 and February 2021; 27.5% participants responded (n=3,386), with 1,468 being diagnosed with COVID-19 and suffering co-occurring smell and taste loss at the beginning of their illness. Main Outcomes & Measures: Primary outcomes are ratings of smell and taste function on a visual analog scale, and self-report of parosmia (smell distortions) and phantosmia (unexplained smells). Secondary outcomes include a checklist of other COVID-19 symptoms. Results: On follow-up (median time since COVID-19 onset ~200 days), ~60% of women and ~48% of men reported less than 80% of their pre-illness smell ability. Taste typically recovered faster than smell, and taste loss rarely persisted if smell recovered. Prevalence of parosmia and phantosmia was ~10% of participants in S1 and increased substantially in S2: ~47% for parosmia and ~25% for phantosmia. Persistent smell impairment was associated with more symptoms overall, suggesting it may be a key marker of long-COVID. During COVID-19 illness, the ability to smell was slightly lower among those who did not recover their pre-illness ability to smell at S2. Conclusions and Relevance: While smell loss improves for many individuals who lost it due to COVID-19, the prevalence of parosmia and phantosmia increases substantially over time. Olfactory dysfunction is also associated with wider COVID-19 symptoms and may persist for many months after COVID-19 onset. Taste loss in the absence of smell loss is rare. Persistent qualitative smell symptoms are emerging as common long-term sequelae; more research into treatment options is strongly warranted given that conservative estimates suggest millions of individuals may experience parosmia following COVID-19. Healthcare providers worldwide need to be prepared to treat post COVID-19 secondary effects on physical and mental health.
doi:10.1101/2021.08.28.21262763 fatcat:52inf3gb5jhudpytxlrts3d2ja