Loss of Taste

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What is loss of taste?

Loss of taste is a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), salivary gland infection, sinusitis, poor dental hygiene, or even certain medicines. The medical term for a complete loss of taste is ageusia. A partial loss of taste is called dysgeusia. Loss of taste is caused by interruption of the transfer of taste sensations to the brain, or by a problem with the way the brain interprets these sensations. Although taste problems are common, complete loss of taste is rare.

Individuals infected with the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 often experience loss of taste and loss of smell.

Heartburn or gastric reflux is a common cause of loss of taste. Stomach acid regurgitated into the mouth produces a loss of normal taste and results in a taste described as acidic or metallic. Another common cause of loss of taste is infection of the mouth or tongue. Similarly, poor dental hygiene causes bacterial growth in the mouth, resulting in a loss of taste. Other mouth or tongue disorders, including mouth ulcers, cancer, and damage due to tobacco use, can result in loss of taste.

Loss of taste may also result from radiation therapy and medicines, such as antibiotics and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Taste problems may take months or even years to resolve. Some loss of taste cases may be permanent, especially if the mouth is a target of direct radiation therapy.

Loss of taste in mouth can be a sign of a serious condition. Seek prompt medical care if your loss of taste in mouth is persistent or causes you concern. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience loss of taste along with other serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), sudden weakness, vision changes, or difficulty thinking clearly.

What other symptoms might occur with loss of taste?

Loss of taste may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the sense of taste may also involve other body systems.

Gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur along with loss of taste

Loss of taste may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive system including:

  • Bloating
  • Heartburn

Salivary gland symptoms that may occur along with loss of taste

Loss of taste may accompany symptoms related to salivary gland disease including:

  • Decreased ability to open your mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Pain in your face or mouth
  • Redness over the side of the face or the upper neck
  • Sore throat

Nasal and sinus symptoms that may occur along with loss of taste

Loss of taste may accompany symptoms related to nasal and sinus conditions including:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Pain, tenderness, swelling and pressure around the eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
  • Stuffy nose or nasal congestion

Nutrient deficiency symptoms that may occur along with loss of taste

Loss of taste may accompany symptoms related to deficiency of certain nutrients including:

  • Brittle nails
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tongue changes

    Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

    In some cases, loss of taste may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have loss of taste along with other serious symptoms including:

    • Changes in vision or speech
       
    • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
       
    • Numbness on one side of the body
       
    • Weakness on one side of the body

    What causes loss of taste?

    Inflammation and infection of the upper respiratory tract, sinuses, mouth, and tongue can result in loss of taste. Symptoms may arise from inflammatory conditions, infections, or diseases that affect the taste buds of the tongue responsible for the sensation of taste. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has a similar effect on the surface the tongue, which may be damaged by gastric acid and bile.

    In addition, loss of taste can be caused by conditions that affect other areas of the body, such as the nervous system. In certain nutrient deficiencies the body does not receive enough of a specific vitamin or nutrient crucial to nerve function, leading to nerve dysfunction or damage. In the case of the nerves that innervate the tongue, the sensation of taste may be lost.

    Common causes of loss of taste

    A number of other conditions can cause loss of taste including:

    • Poor oral hygiene
    • Radiation therapy
    • Salivary gland infection
    • Sinus infection
    • Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry mouth and eyes)
    • Tobacco use

    Other causes of loss of taste

    Loss of taste can also be caused by other conditions including:

    • COVID-19
    • Glossitis (a condition in which the tongue swells and changes color)
    • Oral candidiasis (an infection on the mucous membranes of the mouth)

    Serious or life-threatening causes of loss of taste

    In some cases, loss of taste may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

    • Oral cancer
    • Stroke
    • Transient ischemic attack (temporary stroke-like symptoms that may be a warning sign of an impending stroke)

    Questions for diagnosing the cause of loss of taste

    To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your loss of taste including:

    • How long have you had a loss of taste?
    • What medicines do you take?
    • What other symptoms do you have?
    • When was the last time you visited a dentist?
    • Do you smoke?

    What are potential complications of loss of taste?

    Because loss of taste can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

    • Excessive weight loss
    • Malnutrition
    • Paralysis
    • Spread of infection
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    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
    Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 7
    THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
    1. Taste - impaired. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003050.htm.
    2. Taste disorders. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/smelltaste/pages/taste.aspx.
    3. Symptoms of Coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html