Ageusia - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis
What is Ageusia?
The medical condition is the loss of taste function of your tongue, particularly the inability to detect sourness, saltiness, sweetness, Unami, which is a savory/pleasant taste, and bitterness. It is rare to have true ageusia, which is when a person cannot taste anything that is applied to their tongue. It is also commonly known as taste disorder, which means that their sense of taste in absent entirely but is just impaired. It has also been described as the loss of taste functions of your tongue. Although it is a medical condition in itself it is often a symptom of anosmia, which is a loss of sense of smell.
Many people commonly have one of the two milder forms which are:
- Hypogeusia, which is the taste disorder that causes people to have trouble experiencing certain tastes or differentiating different tastes. It has been found that older people are less sensitive to flavors that are bitter.
- Dysgeusia, which is when their taste of sense is altered or distorted.
Another form of this taste disorder is "congenital ageusia", which is when a person is born without have a sense of taste. It is estimated that each year more than two hundred thousand people have problems that are related to their chemical senses, which include the loss of taste. Although it can affect any gender, race, or age, it is more common in elderly people as it is a natural part of aging.
The main symptom of ageusia is having the inability to distinguish between the various tastes, which are sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and sweetness.
Some of the causes for ageusia can include:
- Having tissue damage to the nerves that support your tongue, especially if the damage is to the glossopharyngeal nerve, which is the nerve that passes the taste for the back third of your tongue or the lingual nerve which is the nerve that passes the taste for the front two-thirds of your tongue. Some of these nerve disorders can include Bell’s palsy, and multiple sclerosis.
- Having a deficiency of zinc and vitamin B3 can cause a person to have problems with the endocrine system which can cause an alteration or loss of taste. There could also be disorders such as diabetes mellitus, or hypothyroidism.
- Medicinal side effects from medications such as pericillamine, cisplatin, ACE inhibitor, etc.
- Inflammation or local damage that interferes with your local nervous system or your taste buds such as from radiation therapy, dentures that are ill fitting, tobacco use, etc.
- Anxiety disorders
- Renal and liver failure
- Drinking alcohol
- Damage to your tongue
When you go to your physician with a complaint about your sense of taste they will normally perform a taste test. This test will help to determine which tastes you can detect and at which concentrations you can taste them. To do these taste tests there are kits that a physician can use to give them a more carefully calibrated tastes that they can use to test you for this disorder. The physician will also review your medical history to see if there could be an underlying cause for the problem. If there is an underlying problem it will help them to decide on a course of treatment.
How your physician will treat your case of ageusia will depend on what is causing it. If this taste disorder is because you are a heavy smoker or drinker in order to treat ageusia you would have to cut back on how much you smoke or drink during the day. If the cause is an endocrine or neurological problem the physician can treat the underlying cause with medications, diet and lifestyle change, or even surgery. If it is caused by a side effect of a medication the physician will usually change the medication. If ageusia has been caused by aging this is permanent and there is nothing the physician can do to treat it but the physician can teach you come coping strategies. These can include teaching you how to prepare foods with more colors and spices.