Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nosology with a Wolf

Today I visited a doctor of noses and related orifices.  His name is Dr Wolf.  His nursing assistant did my intake, giving me a scratch-and-sniff test to see how acute my smelling was.

The only scent I could smell was mint.

"I can't really smell any of these" I explained to her after scratch-sniffing the little brown patches on the card.   She said I had to guess to score the test.  There was no "don't know" option.  I said that was wrong because then I had a 25% chance of getting one of the listed smells right while the truth was I didn't know at all.

She said "I can smell it from here!"

I had been listening to an NPR program about power poses.  Apparently dominant animals of all species assume open, wide stances which communicate dominance to others as well as to the self. The nurse was in a power pose at her terminal - legs akimbo, shoulders back - so she was used to obedience.  I tried not to cross my legs like a victim but did, involuntarily.  It was partly because I had just washed my hair and left it wet which is an unusual thing to do in winter and made me feel socially awkward.  I felt that everyone was thinking about my hair so I guessed what they smelt like.

I scored 1/3.  I really did smell mint so I was okay with that.

After that the Wolf doctor came in.  He was wearing a Sounders lanyard and looked happy.  Even as a doctor he was very nice, witty, informative and (I hope) thorough.  He spritzed my nose with two unpleasant liquid drugs (novocaine and something else to dilate my nostrils) and then stuck a long thin tube with a light on up my nose.  This told him that I have no nasal polyps or inflammation in the nasal passages.

The nose squirters
 He asked if I had had major head trauma or surgery, which I have not.

His conclusion was that I have either post-viral or idiopathic anosmia.  Idiopathic is a good word for "we don't know".  It means "arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause".  Its origin is actually the Greek words for one's self (idio) and suffering (pathos).  From Wikipedia I learned that the term comes from nosology.   "Nosology!" I thought.  However, nosology has nothing to do with noses... but is the science of classification of diseases.  So, my disease is either post-viral or unique not-yet-understood type of suffering.

The Nose Doctor has referred me for a brain MRI.  I asked him if it was likely that I had a brain tumor.  He said it was not, however in cases of "a disease of one's own kind" anosmia, it is standard protocol to look for a tumor in the part of the cortex where the olfactory nerve enters the brain, or connects to it.  I don't recall the exact mechanism but he showed me a picture and pointed at some nerves.  Here is a picture in case you are diligent about understanding all this.

Parts of the nose (not the one showing the olfactory nerves)
The reason's that I am unlikely to have a brain tumor are:

  1. This has been going on a long time;
  2. I am not having headaches
  3. I don't have blurred vision
  4. I am not falling over
  5. or Having personality changes (although, he pointed out that I am unlikely to have noticed if I am, and so I am asking YOU, if I am much altered).
  6. In his entire career of referring anosmiacs for MRI's he has never found one.
The reason that I might is:
  1. I cannot smell anything even though my nose-part receptors look fine so perhaps something is wrong with my brain-part receivers.
I am not able to get an MRI soon because our health insurance is not officially through yet and so the Imaging department won't schedule an expensive procedure like this until they have authorization.  I have given them the COBRA contacts in hope of achieving this but it may have to wait till we return from holiday.

Meanwhile, I was warned to pay attention for smoke and gas leaks.

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