What Causes Taste Loss and How to Help?

Taste loss can be very distressing, which may implicate some health issues in the long term. Identify the cause to ensure that the proper treatment can be given.

Losing sense of taste has a negative effect on health as well as the overall quality of life. Almost 15% adults have a problem with taste or smell but do not approach a doctor for it. Over 200,000 people take medical help every year for inability to taste or smell.

However, you may wonder why that will happen to you, how can you get back to normal, and what things can you do to deal with it.

Symptoms That Occur with Loss of Taste

You may experience many other symptoms with a temporary loss of taste. Some people have a reduced taste of flavor (hypogeusia), while others may taste flavor when there is nothing present (phantom taste perception). Here are some other common symptoms associated with a temporary loss of taste:

  • You may develop sinus infection or have nasal conditions that lead to facial swelling or pain, especially around the nose, eyes, and forehead. You may also have symptoms like sore throat, fever, postnasal drip, and nasal congestion.
  • You may experience digestive problems, such as indigestion, bloating, abdominal pain, and heartburn.
  • You may not be eating enough due to a loss of taste and this can lead to a nutrient deficiency. You may develop problems like diarrhea, fatigue, brittle nails, changes in tongue, and loss of appetite.
  • You may develop issues with the salivary glands and experience problems such as facial pain, dry mouth, fever, sore throat, inability to open your mouth, and redness of neck and face.

Be sure to seek immediate medical help if you have any of these abovementioned symptoms along with weakness or numbness on one side of your body or you have a very high fever. You should also talk to your doctor if you notice any change in speech or vision.

What Causes Loss of Taste?

Loss of sense of taste can be temporary or permanent depending on the cause. It is gradual but not as noticeable as loss in sense of smell. There are many reasons of lost taste. Medications and illness can make it worse. If the transfer of taste sensations to the brain is interrupted, or if the interpretation of sensation of taste by the brain is hampered, loss of taste occurs.

Some of the common causes may include:

1. Medications

Medications like antibiotics or antihistamines cause a bad taste in mouth or impaired taste. Bitter or salty taste in the mouth for extended periods is called dysgeusia and usually affects older people. This happens due to medications and oral health problems.

2. Radiation of Head and Neck Cancers

Individuals who receive radiation around the nose and mouth region suffer from loss in sense of taste and smell due to side effects. Old people who lose larynx or voice box also suffer from inability to smell or taste anything.

3. Certain Chemicals

When people are exposed to some insecticides or solvents, they can experience loss of taste. Getting medical help in such conditions is essential.

4. Smoking

Tobacco is the most common form of chemical exposure pollution. It is also reported that when smokers quit smoking, they tend to have a better sense of taste.

5. Certain Operations and Injury

Ear, throat and tooth surgeries can cause taste loss, especially wisdom tooth extraction or middle ear surgery. Sometimes, head injuries can also cause impaired taste. Damage to the taste nerves by being cut or blocked or as a result of physical damage during a head injury can lead to loss of taste.

6. Certain Infections

Ear infection and infection of the tongue can also bring about taste loss. Respiratory or middle ear infections like flu can cause impaired taste or taste disorders. Infections caused by fungus, like oral thrush, yeast-candidiasis and glossitis can also be the culprit.

7. Aging or Inability to Smell

There is slow degeneration of the nerves which control the sensation of taste and smell with increasing age. This causes reduced sense of taste in older people. Congenital anosmia is a condition where people are born with an inability to smell and this can cause impaired taste in the future.

Can Loss of Taste Be Treated?

Doctor's advice should be taken for all the possible treatment options available and the ones which are most suited to the condition depending on the cause. When the underlying cause is treated or gets resolved, the sense of taste returns to normalcy.

  • Depending on what causes the problem, you doctor will prescribe medication and determine the best treatment option. They may prescribe antibiotics if your impaired taste problem is due to any infections in your throat, salivary glands, or sinus cavity. They may prescribe decongestants or antihistamines if you are suffering from the cold, flu, or allergies. Any nutritional deficiency usually requires a treatment with supplements. 
  • If the problem is due to intake of certain medication, stopping or changing the medicine also resolves the problem. However, medicines should be discontinued only after confirmation from doctor.
  • Oral hygiene is very important for having a good sense of taste.

It is also possible to try some home remedies for good results, especially when you know your impaired taste is not the result of any serious medical condition. For instance:

  • Chew on a piece of ginger to stimulate saliva and taste buds. Ginger tea may also help.
  • Try cayenne pepper to help treat sinus blockage.
  • Enjoy lemons to help stimulate your taste buds.
  • Add a ¼ tsp. of baking soda and 1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar to half a glass of water and drink twice a day to stimulate taste buds.
  • Make a paste by mixing equal parts of honey and cinnamon and apply it to your tongue. Let it sit there for 10 minutes and then rinse with warm water to improve your sense of taste.

If the sense of taste cannot be restored, you may require a medical visit. Changes can be made in the diet to make it more appetizing and taste better.

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