Taste disorders are common conditions that affect the chemosensation system. They are closely related to smell disorders and affect the olfactory and gustatory nerves that affect smell and taste. Taste disorders may affect the ability to taste certain foods or tastes, the loss of taste, or it may result in an unpleasant taste in the mouth that remains, even where there is no food in the mouth. Taste and smell disorders are common conditions that affect many people each year.
Gustatory cells react to the food and beverages that we consume and trigger a signal to the brain that allows us to taste different flavors. The sense of taste is actually transmitted primarily through the sense of smell, although taste nerves also serve an important function. In many cases, patients may visit a doctor complaining of a problem with their sense of taste and learn instead that they have a smell disorder.
Causes of Taste Disorders
Taste disorders may develop from a number of different factors including:
- Surgery of the ear, nose or throat
- Head injury
- Upper respiratory infections
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Certain medications
- Dental problems
Taste disorders may also be a side effect of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.
Types of Taste Disorders
Taste disorders can be temporary or permanent. There are several different types of taste disorders that may include:
Hypogeusia - A decreased ability to taste strong flavors.
Ageusia - A complete loss of taste.
Dysgeusia - An abnormal change in taste.
Although not a seemingly serious condition, taste disorders can lead to food poisoning, allergic reactions,depression and a loss of appetite. They may also be early warning signs for more serious conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Treatment for Taste Disorders
Treatment for taste disorders depends on the cause of the condition, but may include treating the underlying cause. Some people with taste disorders caused by respiratory infections or allergies, regain their sense of taste when these conditions are resolved. When the taste disorder results from a particular medication, it may be possible to discontinue taking the medication or a substitution may sometimes be made, although this change should always be done under a doctor's supervision. Some taste disorders may also get better on their own.
Proper oral hygiene is also important in maintaining a healthy sense of taste. It is important to see a doctor if experiencing symptoms of a taste disorder.