We’ve all heard about the millions of people suffering with symptoms long after their COVID-19 test changed from positive to negative (maybe you’re even one of those people). In fact, more than 25% of those who contracted COVID-19 now have Long COVID – defined as having physical and/or neurological symptoms following an acute COVID infection that persist at least one month after the initial infection. But many are experiencing symptoms, including loss of taste and smell, far longer.
Now, a new study, which was published in the British Medical Association (BMJ), is narrowing down the numbers even more, finding that 5% of people who had COVID-19 are dealing with long-lasting loss of smell or taste – what many are considering a new public health crisis in and of itself.
By the Numbers
Specifically, the study found that 27 million people worldwide (approximately 5% of patients surveyed) who had COVID-19 are suffering from long-lasting loss of smell and/or taste. The findings demonstrated a graduated period of recovery. About 75% of those affected generally regained their senses within 30 days, with continued rates of recovery from 30 days to approximately 6 months. However, after that time, about 5% reported “persistent dysfunction.” Additionally, many patients reported transition periods where their senses seemed to return, but with stimuli that weren’t actually present. The most common descriptions included smells that resembled burning rubber, smoke, or other offensive odors.
The study also noted that losses of a sense can lead to emotional and psychological problems, stating, “More than other senses, smell and taste include emotional and affective elements of experience. These senses cannot be communicated through social networks—as with ideas, imaging, and music, sharing them requires coexistence. Loss of smell and taste adversely affects quality of life by depriving those affected of several everyday pleasures and social bonds.” As such, there are alarmingly higher rates of mental illness, depression, and anxiety among this group, at a time where these issues are at an already dangerous, all-time high.
What Can We Do About It?
Many practitioners, including us here at NW Regen, have successfully explored treatments for patients with losses of senses. Specifically, we have found considerable success in using Stellate Ganglion Blocks (SGBs) – precise ultrasound-guided injections that target a collection of nerves in the neck.
SGBs have been used for decades as a proven, effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, anxiety, stress-related disorders, insomnia, postpartum depression, and shingles. And now, it’s showing promising signs of reducing many of the symptoms of Long COVID, including loss of smell and/or taste.
SGBs regulate the body’s autonomic nervous system, among other functions, which can become imbalanced after a COVID-19 illness and cause the loss of taste and smell that so many patients are experiencing. We have found that SGB treatments effectively reboot the autonomic system, bringing it back into balance.
For those who suffer from parosmia, or the “scrambling of smells,” SGB is also proving extremely effective. Actual results have shown anything from a complete cure of parosmia within about 15 minutes of the injection, to positive changes within a couple of days. By giving the body a chance to reboot, it can start to do what it normally should – autoregulate the nervous system in a normal pattern.
SGB has historically been proven effective not only for those suffering from PTSD, but also for those working in jobs that are notoriously found in high-stressed environments. Now, it is also showing effectiveness for the millions who are suffering with Long COVID symptoms. From our perspective, we’ve used it at NW Regen with great success. If you are suffering from Long COVID symptoms, please contact us and set up a consultation.
Dr. Ryan Wood is a licensed Naturopathic and Chiropractic physician focusing on interventional orthopedic and orthobiologic medicine and injection therapies as well as general musculoskeletal and non-surgical orthopedic medicine.
With almost two decades of orthopedic practice across multiple disciplines, he has the necessary experience to ensure proper diagnoses and management of complex cases.