Twenty-something Rahul Dev was living with a loss of taste in his mouth— feeling no sensation of sweet, sour or salty. He didn’t bother much but a close clinical examination led doctors to deduce that Dev suffered from a taste disorder due to high blood sugar levels which led to a fungal infection in the mouth and thus an impaired taste. While he didn’t recover fully from tastelessness, his diabetes was put under check.
Usually, 15 percent of adults have a taste or smell problem, but many don’t seek medical help. Dr Anuj Kumar Goel, Consultant, ENT, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad, sheds light on this, “A significant number of us underestimate our feeling of taste. However, a taste issue can negatively affect your well-being and personal satisfaction. If you are having an issue with your feeling of taste, you are not the only one. The most widely recognised taste issue is apparition taste observation, which is awaiting regularly disagreeable taste even though you don’t have anything in your mouth. Another is hypogeusia, a decreased capacity to taste sweet, harsh, unpleasant, salty, and tasty (umami). Dysgeusia is a condition in which a foul, salty, or metallic taste sensation will hold on in the mouth. Ageusia is the failure to distinguish any preferences, which is uncommon”.
In some cases it could be severe as Dr Ambanna Gowda, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru, says, “Taste disorder is sometimes accompanied by burning mouth syndrome, where a person experiences a painful burning sensation in the mouth.”
But a complete loss of taste is usually rare. Mostly taste is partially affected in individuals. “The sensation in tongue is tied to the sensation of smell and ifone is affected then other is also partially disoriented. But it has to be differentiated from the dry mouth—Xerostomia, where taste buds are normal, and saliva is not produced,” clarifies Dr L K Malhotra, Senior Consultant, Neurology, Max Smart Super Speciality
Taste can be affected in any age group depending on the cause. “Taste buds could be affected due to tongue infection, tobacco chewing, radiotherapy locally for any cancer, dental causes. There are certain anti-hypertensive medicines and some other medicines like Metronidazole, Syndopa, Penicillamine, anti-cancer drugs, lithium, etc. that may lead to taste disorder,” says Dr Malhotra. He adds how diabetes, liver and kidney diseases and hypothyroidism can affect taste directly or indirectly. Also, nutritional deficiency of zinc, niacin and B12 are important and treatable causes. “Bell’s palsy where half facial weakness occurs can cause taste affection on half of the tongue on the side of facial weakness. Brain diseases like multiple sclerosis, head injury and a stroke, which affect areas of the brain, which process taste sensation, can also result in the disorder,” says Dr Malhotra.
There are other probable reasons as well. As Dr Gowda says, “Usually people are born with it, but a few develop it due to illnesses like upper respiratory and middle ear infection, radiation therapy for cancers of the head and neck, exposure to certain chemicals such as insecticides and some medications, including some common antibiotics and antihistamines, head injuries, some surgeries of the ear, nose, and throat (such as middle ear surgery) or extraction of the third molar (wisdom tooth) and poor oral hygiene.”
Consulting an expert is essential in distinguishing and treating the ailment. Dr Goel suggests that ceasing or changing medication sometimes helps get rid of the issue. “The remedy of a general issue can sometimes address the loss of taste. An individual may recuperate his or her feeling of taste unexpectedly. Oral cleanliness is imperative to recapture the gustatory feeling,” says Dr Goel.
According to Dr Gowda, treatment of the disorder may include chewing sugarless gum or candy for taste and salivary stimulation. “Chewing gum or candy may cover the unpleasant taste and provide symptomatic relief. Adding seasonings and spices to enhance flavours are helpful. Serving food at a cold temperature to reduce unpleasant flavours and odour is recommended. Practise good oral hygiene with frequent brushing of teeth and use of mouthwash. Use of Zinc sulphate improves taste and odour disorders,” he says. He also recommends, reducing the consumption of foods that taste metallic or bitter such as red meat, coffee, and tea to avoid severity of the disorder.
A loss of taste can lead to a medical issue. “It can be a symptom for coronary illness, diabetes, stroke, and ailments that require adhering to an explicit eating routine,” warns Dr Goel. So, consult a doctor immediately to nip the failing tastes in the tongue.