Body processes

Senses – Function, Task & Diseases


Surroundings and environment are perceived by people through their senses . The classic five senses are smell , touch , taste , hearing and sight . They serve the body for protection and orientation.

What are the senses

Without the senses, humans would not be able to find their way around in their environment. As protective mechanisms, they protect the body from damage and, as alarm sensors, report danger. Visual perception is through the eyes , auditory through the ears and tactile through the skin . Taste (gustatory perception) is mainly perceived via the tongue , while smelling (olfactory perception) is perceived via the nose . These parts of the body are called the sense organs.

The senses can be divided into the so-called near and far senses. Sight and hearing fall under the distance senses because they function at a distance. The other senses are near senses, since they can usually only be used at close range.

In modern physiology, the senses of temperature and pain , the sense of balance and depth sensitivity (body sensation) are also among the human senses. In so-called synaesthetes , the sensory perceptions and channels often overlap, which means that sounds, for example, are perceived as color patterns.

function & task

The task and function of the senses is not only to make life easier for people, but also to warn and protect them from impending dangers. People who are limited in their sensory perception often turn out to be in need of help. Finding your way around as a blind person is difficult if not impossible for many. This applies in particular if the limitation is not congenital but was caused by an accident or illness.

A typical situation where smell saves lives is in a fire. This also applies to the sense of touch and the body sensation that warns the brain of pain or temperature fluctuations. The temperature sensitivity in winter also protects against frostbite. When it’s cold, your body reacts by chattering your teeth. A movement is generated that serves to warm the body. The sense of taste, on the other hand, primarily helps humans to distinguish between edible and inedible. In this way, severe poisoning , which could lead to death, can be prevented.

In modern society, a part of the senses is more of a pleasant addition than really essential to life. In the early days of evolution, however, the senses helped humans find their way around and survive. Like smell, hearing can become an important alarm signal. For this reason, the body still reacts sensitively and deterred to loud noises. They could symbolize danger.

Similar to the sense of temperature, the sense of pain should protect against major injuries. The sense of balance, on the other hand, fulfills a somewhat different function. Without it, humans would not be able to stand up or even move.

If one of the senses is impaired, the human body often compensates for this disability by strengthening the other senses. This ensures a more comprehensive protection of the body. This mechanism also helps with orientation in everyday life.

Diseases & Ailments

In most cases, complaints in the area of ​​the sensory organs are received with extreme restlessness. This is related to their importance in everyday life. So it seems extremely worrying when vision begins to decline – whether due to illness or due to advancing age.

Diseases of the eyes are, for example, conjunctivitis , cataracts in old age and poor eyesight , which can occur as a cause of other diseases. Inflammation of the optic nerve also affects vision strength and intensity.

Diseases related to the sense of hearing are, on the one hand, ringing in the ears ( tinnitus ), which causes disturbing noises in the ear, and, on the other hand, sudden hearing loss . In addition, hearing loss can occur with age. Complaints such as dizziness or motion sickness are disturbances of the sense of balance.

In addition, infectious diseases usually result in short-term impairment of the sense of smell and taste. This is most common with colds or the flu . However, sinus infections can also impair the sense of smell. In addition, allergies such as hay fever also affect vision and the sense of smell. Depending on the intensity, the symptoms are similar to those of a cold.

Nervous disorders and stress can also affect the senses. In addition, a so-called hereditary sensory neuropathy has been diagnosed in very few cases . It is a functional disorder that becomes noticeable, among other things, through dispositions in the perception of pain and touch.

Nervous diseases generally affect sensory perception. Injuries to the nerves can also impair the senses or even completely paralyze sensations in different parts of the body. This applies in particular to the sense of touch as well as pain and temperature sensations. In addition, mental illnesses can also influence the subjective sensory perception.

In many diseases, several sensory organs are affected at the same time, as they interact directly with one another. Impairments in the sense of smell also affect the taste buds. The situation is similar with imbalances. Another symptom that often accompanies dizziness is a disturbed field of vision. Those affected become “black before their eyes”.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.