Ageusia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Overview

Ageusia is the loss of taste function of your tongue, particularly the inability to detect sourness, saltiness, sweetness, and bitterness. It is also commonly known as taste disorder, which means that their sense of taste is impaired. Other taste disorders include hypogeusia, dysgeusia, and phantogeusia. Taste disorders can be total, partial, or specific. It is rare to have true ageusia. Smell and taste are important for human safety and quality of life. The loss of taste or smell may give a hint of other underlying neurologic or metabolic conditions.

Some studies demonstrated that hypogeusia is present in approximately 5% of the population, whereas complete ageusia is very rare and may occur in 1 to 2 individuals per 1,000.

Causes

Ageusia can be caused by various reasons such as nerve damage or vitamin deficiency. In some cases, people are born with taste disorders. It can also be triggered by endocrine disorders and treatment side effects. Besides, although it can affect any gender, race, or age, it is more common in elderly people as it is a natural part of aging. Other possible causes include:

  • Upper respiratory and middle ear infections
  • Allergies
  • Common antibiotics and antihistamines
  • Trauma or surgery to the head or face
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dental problems
  • Obesity
  • Smoking or alcohol use
  • Environmental exposures
  • Metabolic or neurologic disorders
  • Chemotherapy or radiation exposure
  • Cancer

Symptoms

The main symptom of ageusia is the inability to distinguish between various tastes. Most often, people experience a loss of smell instead of a loss of taste. In other taste disorders, an odor, a taste, or a flavor may be distorted. For instance, dysgeusia is sometimes accompanied by painful burning syndrome in the mouth.

Diagnosis

People with ageusia, along with other taste and smell disorders, commonly turn to an otolaryngologist (sometimes called an ENT), a doctor of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck.

An otolaryngologist will develop some taste tests in which the patient responds to different chemical concentrations. This may involve a simple “sip, spit, and rinse” test, or chemicals may be applied directly to specific areas of the tongue. To do these taste tests there are kits that an ENT can use to give them a more carefully calibrated taste. The ENT will also review a patient’s medical history to see if there could be an underlying cause for the problem.

Treatment

Treatment for ageusia depends on the cause of the condition. A change in diet and taking certain medications can gradually improve sensory perception. In rarer and more severe cases, operational intervention could be recommended.

For some specific situations, if this taste disorder is because you are a heavy smoker or drinker, just stop it or cut back on how much you smoke or drink.

If the cause is an endocrine or neurological problem, the doctor may treat it with medications, diet and lifestyle change, or even surgery.

If it is caused by a side effect of a medication, the doctor will usually change the medications.

If ageusia has been caused by aging that is permanent, it cannot be cured. But the doctor can teach you some coping strategies, such as how to prepare foods with more colors and spices.


Keywords: ageusia; taste disorder.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.