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Alternative NamesLoss of taste; Metallic taste; Dysgeusia
Definition Return to top
Taste impairment means there is a problem with your sense of taste. Problems range from distorted taste to a complete loss of the sense of taste. However, a complete inability to taste is rare.
Considerations Return to top
The tongue can detect only sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes. Much of what is perceived as "taste" is actually smell. People who have taste problems often have a smell disorder that can make it hard to identify a food's flavor. (Flavor is a combination of taste and smell.)
Taste problems can be caused by anything that interrupts the transfer of taste sensations to the brain, or by conditions that affect the way the brain interprets these sensations.
Causes Return to top
Home Care Return to top
Follow prescribed therapy, which may include a change or changes to the diet. For taste problems due to the common cold or flu, normal taste should return when the illness passes. For smokers, stop smoking.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Make an appointment with your doctor if your taste problems do not go away, or if abnormal tastes occur with other symptoms.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
The doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions, including:
If the taste problem is due to allergies or sinusitis, the doctor may give you medicine to relieve the stuffy nose. If a medicine you are taking is to blame, your doctor may recommend that you change your dose or switch to a different drug.
A CT scan may be done to look at the sinuses or the part of the brain that controls the sense of smell.
References Return to top
Wrobel BB. Clinical assessment of patients with smell and taste disorders. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. Dec 2004; 37(6):1127-42.
Doty RL. Effects of drugs on olfaction and taste. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. Dec 2004; 37(6):1229-54.Update Date: 3/3/2009 Updated by: James L. Demetroulakos, MD, FACS, Department of Otolaryngology, North Shore Medical Center, Salem, MA. Clinical Instructor in Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.