Fifth Sense exists to provide support and advice to smell and taste-related disorder sufferers, and so that society can understand what it means to suffer impairment of one or both of these senses.
Based in the UK, we support smell and taste disorder sufferers across the world, and are the first charity providing direct support, advice, and a signpost to potential treatment to sufferers of such conditions.
Fifth Sense’s strategy for achieving our goals is to address the lack of understanding within society of the role that the senses of smell and taste play in our lives, which is a major reason for the lack of the appreciation of the impact that disorders of these senses can have on sufferers.
Please click here to find out about some of our achievements to date.
What are Smell and Taste-related Disorders?
Perhaps the most widely-reported disorder is anosmia, the loss of the sense of smell, with hyposmia referring to a reduction in olfactory ability, which is probably even more common. Distortions of the sense of smell, and so called ‘phantom’ smells (perceiving a smell when none is present) are widely reported, and often accompany anosmia.
Disorders of the sense of taste are actually quite rare, but because smell is responsible for much of the flavour of food and drink, many people with a smell disorder report a loss of smell and taste, even though the taste system may be undamaged. For this reason, we refer to ‘smell and taste-related disorders’, though the majority are actually down to problems with the sense of smell specifically. That said, taste-specific disorders such as ageusia, the loss of the sense of taste, also cause great problems for sufferers, and our work encompasses this group of conditions too.
The Impact of Smell and Taste Disorders
Smell and Taste disorders can have a severe impact on the lives of those who suffer from them. Our sense of smell plays a huge role in our memory, mood and emotion, and forms a major part of many of life’s pleasurable experiences, whether eating a meal, a walk in the countryside, or intimacy with one’s partner. Fifth Sense commenced an ongoing survey of its members in October 2013 to establish the impact of such conditions on their quality of life. From figures released in December 2013:
- 94% of respondents said that their appreciation of food and drink had been reduced
- 60% say they feel alone and isolated as a result of their condition
- 45% have suffered from depression
- 55% have experienced difficulties in their relationship with partners, families and/or friends
- 78% feel angry or frustrated
- 85% are afraid of being exposed to dangers such as gas or spoiled food
Treatment of Smell and Taste Disorders
Many Fifth Sense members are told by doctors in both primary and secondary care that very little is known about conditions such as anosmia, and that nothing can be done to help.
Whilst there are significant challenges in treating such conditions, this isn’t necessarily true.
Fifth Sense is working in partnership with the small number of medical specialists both in the UK and abroad who are interested in diagnosing and treating patients with smell and taste disorders. Treatment does depend on cause; patients with sino-nasal disease and Chronic Rhinosinusitis can often be treated with some success, whereas post-traumatic olfactory loss that stems from injury to the brain is potentially permanent.
The challenge patients face at present is that there is very little interest or awareness around treatment possibilities for such conditions within the medical profession as a whole. This is why working with the medical profession to raise awareness and improve education forms an important part of our remit.
For information on the clinics working to diagnose and treat patients, visit the Smell and Taste Clinics page.
Support – The Fifth Sense Community
Fifth Sense is a membership organisation, with membership open to anyone who suffers from a smell or taste disorder, or to parents of children with such a condition.
Fifth Sense has created a community where our members can find support and understanding through sharing experiences, and gain information and advice through the partnerships Fifth Sense is developing with clinicians, researchers, and others whose work is based around the senses of smell and taste.
To join us, please email us at Info@FifthSense.org.uk
Who We Are
Fifth Sense was established in 2012 by Duncan Boak, who lost his sense of smell as the result of a severe head injury in 2005. Fifth Sense has grown rapidly since then and is now the first charity supporting smell and taste disorder sufferers, providing a signpost to potential diagnosis and treatment, and playing a leading role in educating society on the huge role that the sense of smell plays in our lives.
What can you do?
If you suffer from anosmia or any other smell/taste-related disorder and, like many of us, have received no useful information from your doctor, or have been told that nothing can be done, then please contact Fifth Sense using the email address below to find out about what options there are for gaining expert medical advice within the UK.
Fifth Sense Mission Statement
Provide support and advice to smell and taste-related disorder sufferers and act as a signpost to potential diagnosis and treatment
Raise awareness of smell and taste-related disorders, and the impact they can have on people with these conditions
Raise awareness of the role that the sense of smell plays in our lives, and play a leading role in educating society on the role and function of the senses of smell and taste
Promote, support and facilitate research into smell and taste-related disorders and into furthering understanding of the senses of smell and taste
- Engage with relevant government and health organisations to improve services for smell and taste disorder sufferers