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Loss of Taste

Causes, Possible Conditions, Questions & Related Topics

If you are experiencing loss of taste, please consider getting a COVID test. While a COVID vaccine is not available, a COVID test is the best path for medical treatment.

Top 7 Loss of Taste Causes

1. Smoking

Tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars contain a wide range of irritants, heavy metals, and carcinogenic molecules that can reduce taste sensitivity and cause loss of taste.[1] Smoking can also reduce blood supply to the taste buds to result in loss of smell or taste.[2] Loss of taste related to smoking is more common in those who smoke heavily, and can naturally reverse after a person quits smoking.

2. Certain Medications

Loss of taste is a side effect of many different types of medications, including antihistamines (e.g., prednisone), anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen), heart medications (e.g., propranolol, diltiazem), and antipsychotics (e.g., diazepam, bupropion).[3] Thyroid medications, lithium, and cancer drugs may also cause loss of taste.

3. Gum Inflammation

Gums that become inflamed on behalf of gingivitis, periodontal disease, and other oral health problems can lead to loss of taste or an unpleasant taste. Loss of taste and taste disorders caused by poor oral health usually occur due to damaged nerves and taste receptors.[4]

4. Injury

Injuries to the head, ear, mouth, and nose can lead to loss of taste on behalf of nerve damage to these areas or parts of the brain.[5] People who suffer the loss of taste due to an injury will usually recover their sense of taste naturally, as their bodies heal.

5. Surgery

Any surgery performed on the head, mouth, throat, nose, or ear can result in loss of taste if the surgery affects nerves in these areas. Anesthetic agents used to reduce or eliminate pain during surgery are also found to cause loss of taste for between 1 and 2 weeks following the procedure.[6]

6. Nutritional Deficiency

Certain vitamins and minerals such as zinc and vitamin B12 play important roles in taste perception. Therefore, being deficient in these nutrients can lead to loss of taste.[7] Improving nutrition and eating foods high in zinc and B12 can often help restore taste sensitivity.

7. Aging

Taste sensitivity usually decreases after the age of 60 on behalf of reductions in saliva production and the number of taste buds.[8] Taste buds also begin to shrink as part of the natural aging process to result in loss of taste. Sweet and salty tastes are often lost first, followed by bitter and sour tastes.[9]

Possible Health Conditions Related to Loss of Taste

1. Common Cold

Common cold symptoms such as stuffy nose and congestion affect nerves and tissues in the nose related to the sense of smell, which can also impair the sense of taste.[10] Other symptoms associated with the common cold include sore throat, runny nose, cough, and headache. Most people can recover from the common cold within 7 to 10 days.[11]

2. Influenza

Loss of taste may be a symptom of influenza due to the way this respiratory illness causes a stuffy nose.[10] Influenza shares many of the same symptoms as the common cold, but comes on more suddenly and has the potential to be life-threatening. Common symptoms of influenza include fever, sore throat, cough, and fatigue.[12]

3. Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness that produces symptoms of fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and general malaise.[13] Loss of taste may also occur with COVID-19, including in asymptomatic patients who may not experience any other symptoms of illness. Loss of taste associated with COVID-19 can set in anywhere between 2 and 14 days after exposure to the virus.[14]

4. Bell’s Palsy

Bell's palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis or weakness that affects one side of the face. Symptoms of Bell’s palsy appear suddenly, last for about 2 weeks, and range from mild to severe. Loss of taste is a common symptom of Bell’s palsy, along with twitching, drooling, and tearing in the affected eye.[15]

5. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is the swelling and inflammation of tissue lining in the sinuses located behind the forehead, nasal bones, cheeks, and eyes. Sinusitis usually occurs due to infection from a virus or bacterial infection. Loss of taste and smell are common symptoms of sinusitis.[16] Other symptoms of sinusitis include bad breath, cough, fatigue, and sore throat.[17]

6. Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes sore throat, along with fever, chills, nausea, and loss of taste. Strep throat is spread from person to person through saliva or fluids from the nose and is most common among children between the ages of 5 and 15. Symptoms of strep throat usually resolve within one week and can be effectively treated using antibiotics.[18]

7. Middle Ear Infection

An infection in the middle ear known as otitis media can lead to loss of taste.[19] Otitis media is commonly caused by the common cold, sinusitis, allergies, and tobacco smoke, and affects children more often than adults. Loss of taste related to a middle ear infection may be accompanied by ear pain, cough, congestion, and hearing loss. Many middle ear infections resolve on their own without interventions, though antibiotics may be used to clear an infection caused by bacteria.[20]

8. Sore Throat

Sore throat, also known as pharyngitis, is swelling that occurs in the back of the throat between the tonsils and voice box. Sore throat is commonly caused by influenza, mononucleosis, and the common cold, and is characterized by a scratchy feeling in the throat along with pain when swallowing. Loss of taste is a symptom of sore throat, along with headache, nausea, fever, and loss of appetite.[21]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Loss of Taste

  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms besides the loss of taste?
  • When did you first start noticing a loss of taste?
  • Which medications are you taking?
  • Do you smoke tobacco products?
  • Have you recently suffered an injury?
  • Did you recently have a cold or infection?
  • Have you recently been exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19?
  • Did you recently attend a large event or gathering with lots of people?

Loss of Taste May Also be Known as:

  • Impaired taste
  • Ageusia
  • Dysgeusia
  • Hypogeusia
  • Taste loss
  • Metallic taste

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