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What causes a loss of taste?

Many possible causes may lead to a loss of taste, including new medications, dental problems, cold or flu, and COVID-19. The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of a lost sense of taste.

Taste, also known as gustationTrusted Source, is an important sensation that allows people to identifyTrusted Source nutritious food items and enjoy flavor. Taste is a complex sense involving many organs and tissues, such as the tongue, roof of the mouth, throat, and nose. This is why smell can affect taste.

 

The medical term for a complete loss of taste is ageusia, while loss of smell is anosmia. A lost sense of taste may refer to a partial or total loss of taste.

A loss or alteration in taste can occur due to many different conditions, such as those that affect the taste organs, nervous system, or infection. Some of these issues are harmless, while others may require a doctor’s diagnosis. The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

This article discusses the possible reasons a person may experience a lost sense of taste and how doctors diagnose and treat the underlying issues.

The most common taste disorderTrusted Source is phantom taste perception. A person with this disorder will have a strong, lingering taste in their mouth, even when it is empty. The taste is often unpleasant and may overpower the taste of other foods while they eat. The taste may also occur alongside a persistent burning sensation in the person’s mouth.

There are three types of phantom taste perception:

Ageusia

A complete loss of the sense of taste is called ageusiaTrusted Source, which can make a person unable to detect any tastes. However, ageusia is rare. A 2016 study estimates that only 3% of people who experience a loss of the sense of taste have true ageusia.

Dysgeusia

Dysgeusia causes a persistent taste in the mouth that can mask other tastes and make all foods taste the same. People with dysgeusia often say that the taste has particular characteristics, describing it as:

foul

rancid

sour

salty

metallic

Hypogeusia

Hypogeusia is the term for a partial loss of one type of taste. A person with hypogeusia may be unable to detect one of the key tastes:

bitterness

sourness

saltiness

sweetness

umami, which is a pleasant, savory taste

Other causes

Possible causes of taste disorders and a loss of taste can includeTrusted Source:

upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold

COVID-19

sinus infections

middle ear infections

poor oral hygiene and dental problems, such as gingivitis

exposure to some chemicals, such as insecticides

surgeries on the mouth, throat, nose, or ear

head injuries

radiation therapy for cancer in this area of the body

Causes of smell disorders may includeTrusted Source:

aging

smoking

growths in the nasal cavities

conditions that affect the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease

Some medications may also affect a person’s ability to taste. These drugs can includeTrusted Source:

antibiotics

antihistamines

chemotherapy drugs

proton pump inhibitors

protein kinase inhibitors

Diagnosis

Taste disorders are not uncommon. Before the pandemic, more than 200,000 peopleTrusted Source in the United States visited the doctor each year to report difficulty tasting or smelling. Some experts estimate that 5% of Americans described dysgeusia, and almost 1 in 5Trusted Source Americans over 40 reported some alteration in their sense of taste.

Specialists called otolaryngologists can diagnose and treat both smell and taste disorders. These doctors specialize in disorders that affect the ear, nose, and throat and conditions relating to the head and neck.

The doctor may look for growths in the mouth or nose, check a person’s breathing, and search for other signs of infection. They will also review the individual’s medical history and ask about any drug use and possible exposure to toxic chemicals.

The doctor will also want to examine a person’s mouth and teeth to check for signs of disease and inflammation.

To help diagnose the loss of taste, the doctor might apply certain chemicals directly to the individual’s tongue or add them to a solution that they then swish in their mouth. A person’s response to these chemicals may help identify the affected aspect of taste.

It can take time to identify both the type of sensory loss that the individual is experiencing and the underlying condition, but a correct diagnosis is an important step toward proper treatment.

Treatment

The underlying condition causing the lost sense of taste will determine the treatment options. In simple cases, such as those resulting from the common cold or flu, doctors will usually wait until the infection subsides. With most people, their sense of taste should return once the illness goes away. However, evidence suggests that smell and taste problems may persist following SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in cases of long COVID.

While research is still unclear, if a person experiences post-viral olfactory dysfunctionTrusted Source or smell and taste problems after a viral infection, a doctor may considerTrusted Source using olfactory training and topical corticosteroids.

For those with bacterial infections, such as sinus or middle ear infections, doctors may recommend antibiotics.

Treatment for more serious issues, such as nervous system disorders or head injuries, will require an individualized treatment plan.

Home remedies

In many cases, a person can take small steps at home to help improve their sense of taste, including:

quitting smoking

improving dental hygiene by brushing, flossing, and using a medicated mouthwash daily

using over-the-counter antihistamines or vaporizers to reduce inflammation in the nose

Prevention

It may not always be possible to prevent a loss of taste, and some cases may be the result of underlying conditions that require medical treatment. However, people can try to reduce the risk of ageusia resulting from infections by trying the following tips:

eating a healthy diet and maintaining hydration

getting plenty of rest

practicing good hand washing technique

wearing a face covering in public

managing stress

Summary

Ageusia is the medical term for a complete loss of taste. A partial or full loss of the sense of taste can occur for many reasons, such as problems in the mouth or nose. In many cases, the cause is temporary, such as an infection that inflames the nasal passages.

Treating the underlying condition should make the symptoms go away. Some underlying causes, such as chemical exposure, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging, may cause a permanent loss of taste. It is essential for a person to work closely with a doctor to identify and treat the underlying issue.

(02/08/2024)
by Medical News Today

More Information: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325281

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