Taste and Smell Disorders Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options
One of the greatest parts of life is experiencing the external world through our senses. We can hear incredible music, feel the touch of a loved one, see stunning sunsets, smell exotic flowers and taste delicious home cooking. Unfortunately, we are susceptible to losing these wonderful senses. There are many factors that affect our senses of smell and taste ranging from chronic illness to the body reacting to internal stimuli and more. If you are experiencing a loss of ability to taste or smell, it may be caused by one or a combination of possible disorders.
Taste Disorder Symptoms
- Foods taste differently than they used to
- Inability to taste foods
- Tasting things that are not there or tasting things while nothing is in the mouth
Taste Disorder Causes
One of the most common causes for a change in one’s sense of taste is having a cold or infection. As the body fights off harmful bacteria or viruses, our senses can be thrown off kilter. As people age, some may experience a loss of smell or taste that is not caused by a disorder, but rather a loss of sensory nerves that are a normal part of the aging process.
Taste loss can also be caused by more serious issues such as:
- Oral and perioral infections
- Oral appliances
- Bell’s palsy
- Head trauma
- Mass lesions of the taste pathway of the nervous system
Taste Disorder Treatment
- Time – many taste disorders are caused by the body adjusting to a new medication, recovering from an infection or mild illness, or normal changes in the body’s chemistry, which will resolve themselves in time
- Medication – if the taste disorder is a side-effect to a chronic medication, talk to your doctor about an alternative medication. If the cause is determined to be xerostomia, your doctor may prescribe an artificial saliva.
- Education – individuals suffering from permanent or long-term loss of taste are urged not to compensate by over indulging in salts and sugars. Instead, opt for foods with complex textures, aromas, temperatures and colors that will improve your eating experience
Smell Disorder Symptoms
- Loss of ability to smell
- Things smelling differently than they used to
- Smelling things that are not there or that others cannot smell
- A smell you once enjoyed not smells unpleasant
Smell Disorder Causes
Many illnesses or injuries may cause you to experience symptoms of smell disorders. For example, a cold or a head injury may affect the way you experience certain scents. If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, this too can affect your senses. Certain treatments such as chemotherapy or prescription steroids for chronic conditions can also affect your sense of smell.
Other, more serious causes of smell loss include:
- Nasal and sinus diseases such as subacute sinusitis
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Head trauma in which the sensory perception area of the brain was significantly damaged
Smell Disorder Treatment
- Medication – typically prescribed when the cause is reversible such as that of an infection, allergies, or nasal passage blockage
- Surgery – if the cause is determined to be a more serious blockage such as nasal polyps or other physical abnormality
- Lifestyle adjustments – in the case of irreversible and untreatable smell disorders, such as those caused by a head injury, one will need to learn lifestyle adaptations to successfully cope with issues of safety, personal hygiene, and appetite
If you believe you are suffering from a smell or taste disorder, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will likely run a myriad of tests including a full physical examination, tests for infection, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, diabetes, or diseases of the thyroid, liver or kidney. Your doctor may also order imaging techniques such as CT scans or MRIs to get a better picture of the internal structures of your brain, nervous system and organ systems. Once the problem has been identified, discuss your treatment options with your doctor in detail to find the best option for your needs.
Image credit for Taste and Smell Disorders Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options: Dennis Wong