Ageusia: Loss of sense of taste
What is ageusia?
Ageusia is the loss of sense of taste. This condition makes it difficult to detect tastes like sweet, sour, salty or bitter.
Who does ageusia affect?
Loss of sense of taste can affect people of all ages. However, it’s most common in adults over the age of 50.
How common is ageusia?
True ageusia — a complete loss of taste — is rare. Out of 1,000 people, one or two will develop the condition.
What is the difference between ageusia and dysgeusia?
Ageusia refers to the total loss of taste. Dysgeusia is a condition that causes an unpleasant perception of taste.
What are some other taste disorders?
In addition to ageusia and dysgeusia, other taste disorders include hypogeusia (decreased sensitivity to taste) and hypergeusia (increased sensitivity to taste). However, ageusia is the only condition that results in a complete loss of taste function.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the symptoms of ageusia?
People with ageusia cannot distinguish any taste in the foods they eat. Additionally, they may experience a number of other symptoms. These may include:
- A decreased desire to eat.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- Nasal congestion.
- Oral health problems.
What causes ageusia?
There are several health issues that can lead to a loss of sense of taste. These include:
- COVID-19 infection.
- Sinus infection (sinusitis).
- Common cold.
- Influenza (flu).
- Pharyngitis (sore throat).
- Strep throat.
- Salivary gland infections.
- Gum (periodontal) disease.
- Injuries to the head or ear.
Ageusia can also be linked to:
- Poor nutrition.
- Sjogren’s syndrome.
- High blood pressure.
- Nutritional deficiencies (particularly zinc and vitamin B-12).
- Dry mouth (xerostomia) or any condition that causes damage to the taste buds.
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Certain drugs, including lithium, cancer treatments and thyroid medication.
How long can ageusia last?
It depends. Typically, symptoms are ongoing until the underlying condition is treated. People who have ageusia as a symptom of COVID-19 usually recover in one to three weeks. (Note: Most people who develop ageusia as a coronavirus symptom also have anosmia — a loss of sense of smell.)
Diagnosis and Tests
How is ageusia diagnosed?
Taste disorders like ageusia are usually diagnosed by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. They will ask questions about your symptoms and review your health history to determine if any existing conditions could be triggering your loss of sense of taste.
What tests will be done to diagnose ageusia?
Healthcare providers determine the extent of your ageusia by measuring the limits of your taste function. To do this, your healthcare provider may ask you to compare the tastes of several different substances.
Management and Treatment
Can ageusia be treated?
Yes. In most cases, treating the underlying condition that led to ageusia helps restore your taste function.
How soon after treatment will I feel better?
It depends on what caused your loss of sense of taste. If a cold or flu caused ageusia, your taste may return after taking antihistamines or decongestants. Infections can be treated with antibiotics. Your healthcare provider can help determine which course of action to take. Once you’ve recovered from your illness, your sense of taste will likely return.
Sometimes, ageusia can be resolved by improving your lifestyle habits. For example, people who quit smoking can regain their sense of taste in as little as 48 hours. If your ageusia is related to gum disease, ramping up your oral hygiene habits can help restore your taste function quickly.
Can ageusia be prevented?
Because ageusia is a side effect of various conditions, it’s not always preventable. But there are things you can do to lower your risk:
- Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products.
- Stay hydrated.
- Wash your hands often to reduce the risk of infections.
- Brush and floss your teeth daily.
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have ageusia?
If you’ve been diagnosed with ageusia, your healthcare provider can help you find ways to manage your symptoms until you regain your sense of taste. In the meantime, be sure to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Many people with ageusia find it difficult to eat. A healthy diet ensures that you’re obtaining the nutrition you need.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
Sometimes ageusia is an obvious side effect of another health condition. But if you develop a sudden loss of sense of taste, call your healthcare provider immediately. They’ll run tests to determine the root cause and design a personalized treatment plan to improve your symptoms.
Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider
Understanding your diagnosis can help you make informed decisions about your health. Here are some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Is my loss of taste due to a cold, flu or other infection?
- Could my medications be causing my loss of taste?
- Is there an underlying condition that needs to be treated?
- Will taking supplements help?
- Is there anything else I can do to improve my sense of taste?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Losing your sense of taste is inconvenient and can have a negative impact on your quality of life. But it can also point to other, more serious health concerns. Additionally, ageusia can prevent you from detecting spoiled food and drinks — or it can lead to malnutrition and unwanted weight loss. Fortunately, ageusia is usually temporary and goes away once the underlying condition has been treated. To learn more about your options
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