Dysgeusia is a taste disorder. People with this condition feel that all foods taste metallic, sweet, sour or bitter. Many things can cause dysgeusia, like smoking, medical conditions, medication or poor oral hygiene. Treatment addresses the underlying cause, like quitting smoking, changing medication or improving oral hygiene.


What is dysgeusia?

Dysgeusia (pronounced “dis-gyoo-zee-uh”) is a disorder that distorts your sense of taste. People with this condition often say that anything they eat tastes like metal, rancid or bitter. Dysgeusia isn’t a serious medical condition. But it can affect your appetite and quality of life. Healthcare providers may use the terms “altered taste” or “parageusia.”

Dysgeusia is different from ageusia, which is when you lose your sense of taste.

Is dysgeusia common?

Research suggests up to 17% of people in the U.S. experience dysgeusia at some point in their lives.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of dysgeusia?

Dysgeusia affects people in different ways. In general, food just doesn’t taste the same as you remember. Some common symptoms are:

  • All foods taste metallic or bitter.
  • Foods that are characteristically sweet or salty no longer taste sweet or salty.
  • Foods that used to taste good now taste bad, and sometimes rotten.
  • There’s a nasty taste in your mouth even though you haven’t eaten anything.

What causes dysgeusia?

Many things may cause this condition, including:

  • Aging. Your sense of taste changes as you age.
  • Medications. Many medications can affect your sense of taste. Some examples include over-the-counter allergy medications, and prescription drugs like antibiotics, antidepressants, and chemotherapy drugs.
  • Dental prostheses. If you need prostheses that cover your soft palate, these devices can affect your taste receptors so food tastes different.
  • Poor oral hygiene.
  • Using tobacco.
  • Certain medical conditions.

Medical conditions

Several conditions can cause dysgeusia, including:

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia). This happens when your salivary glands produce less saliva because you’re not drinking enough fluid.
  • GERD (chronic acid reflux). When stomach acid enters your mouth, it can affect your taste function. For this reason, some people with GERD develop dysgeusia.
  • Head and neck cancers. Cancer and cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy may affect your sense of taste.
  • Infections. Viral infections like colds, flu or COVID-19 affect your sense of taste.
  • Inflammation. Any condition that results in inflammation of your tongue can affect your taste receptors and your sense of taste.
  • Metabolic disorders. Diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, liver disease and other metabolic conditions can cause dysgeusia.
  • Nerve damage. You have nerves that manage taste sensation. When something damages these nerves, like ear or neck surgery, they don’t work like they should, causing dysgeusia.
  • Neurologic disorders. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS) have been associated with dysgeusia.
  • Pregnancy. Dysgeusia during pregnancy is common, usually due to a surge of hormones. Symptoms typically go away on their own after the first trimester.
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI). If you have a TBI that damages the lining of your nose, your olfactory nerve or the part of your brain that processes your sense of taste, that can cause dysgeusia.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiencies. People who have zinc or vitamin B deficiencies are especially prone to dysgeusia.


Diagnosis and Tests

How is dysgeusia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will do a physical examination and ask about your symptoms. They may do the following tests:

  • A smell identification test. Your sense of taste and smell have a lot in common. Your provider may do a smell identification test to rule out anosmia (loss of sense of smell).
  • Taste threshold tests. These tests show when you detect changes in how food tastes.
  • Blood tests. Your provider may order a complete blood count (CBC) and tests to check your levels of potassium, calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
  • Imaging tests. Sometimes, abnormal growths or physical changes can affect your sense of taste. Your provider may order tests including X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Management and Treatment

How is dysgeusia treated?

Treatment depends on why you have dysgeusia. For example, if medication is causing dysgeusia, changing medications may help. If you have a viral infection like COVID-19 that affects your sense of smell and taste, your healthcare provider may recommend olfactory training therapy.

Studies show your sense of smell is responsible for about 80% of what you taste. Your nose and throat share the same airway, so chewing some foods allows food aroma to make its way to your nose through the back of your mouth. Olfactory training therapy involves daily exposure to different odors for several weeks. Over time, what you smell stimulates your olfactory system in your brain and re-establishes your memories of that smell.



How can I lower my risk of developing dysgeusia?

You can reduce your risk by:

  • Not smoking.
  • Drinking lots of water or beverages that don’t contain sugar or caffeine.
  • Protecting yourself from traumatic brain injury or viral infections.
  • Tracking your sense of taste. If you notice food tastes different, look for anything new in your daily life like new medications or trying new foods.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have dysgeusia?

That depends on the cause. In most cases, dysgeusia goes away on its own once your provider finds the underlying cause. For example, if smoking causes dysgeusia, quitting smoking will make dysgeusia go away. If medication is the culprit, changing medication may help.

But in some cases, the underlying cause is a chronic condition or there’s no substitute for medication. In these scenarios, dysgeusia doesn’t go away, but there are ways to mask the nasty taste in your mouth that the condition causes.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

Often, dysgeusia goes away after your healthcare provider diagnoses the underlying causes. But there are many things you can do to ease your symptoms. Here are some suggestions:

  • Change your food choices. Eat foods that mask the taste of metal, like citrus fruits, sour foods like pickles and food with vinegar. Avoid spicy food, food made with lots of preservatives or very sweet food.
  • Drink up. Drinking lots of water or noncaffeinated drinks prevents dry mouth, which can lead to dysgeusia.
  • Get rid of metal. Swap out metal cutlery and water bottles for glass, plastic or ceramic items.
  • Keep your mouth healthy. Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth may help with dysgeusia or keep it from happening.
  • Rinse your mouth before meals. Rinsing your mouth with a solution of baking soda and water neutralizes acid in your mouth so what you eat tastes like it should.
  • Try ice. Sucking on ice cubes, chips or sugar-free ice pops helps to prevent dry mouth.
  • Quit smoking. Quitting tobacco use will improve your sense of taste.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Dysgeusia can keep you from enjoying your favorite meals. It can make everything taste like it’s been seasoned with metal or sweet treats taste sour. Lots of things cause dysgeusia. If you notice food doesn’t taste the same, talk to a healthcare provider. You may not be able to avoid some of the causes. But you can take steps to reduce the impact that dysgeusia has on your sense of taste.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/19/2024.

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