Taste - impaired

Definition

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. A complete inability to taste is rare.

Considerations

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

The sensation of taste often decreases after age 60. Most often, salty and sweet tastes are lost first. Bitter and sour tastes last slightly longer.

Causes of impaired taste include:

Other causes are:

Home Care

Follow prescribed therapy, which may include a changing your diet. For taste problems due to the common cold or flu, normal taste should return when the illness passes. If you smoke, stop smoking.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

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 or MRI scan may be done to look at the sinuses or the part of the brain that controls the sense of smell.


Review Date: 3/22/2013
Reviewed By: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.