Q: Hello! Dr. I have been facing a problem with my tongue where my tongue loses the ability to sense taste. This has occurred twice
A: Thanks for writing in. The disorder you describe is most likely hypogeusia, a situation in which one has a reduced ability to taste anything whether it’s sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and/or savory. The disorder in which there is complete inability to taste anything (ageusia) is rare. So, symptoms can range from reduced ability to taste a complete inability to taste. Oftentimes, when people report that they cannot taste things, actually have a challenge with smelling rather than tasting.
Some people are born with this disorder but in other cases, problems with taste and smell can be due to certain health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, head injury, diseases of the nervous system like Parkinson disease and Alzheimer disease etc or even illnesses like a common cold, allergy or a sinus infection. Other causes include exposure to some chemicals or certain medicines, nasal polyps, hormonal changes, cigarette smoking, drug abuse eg snorting cocaine through the nose, dental problems etc. As people get older, challenges with sense of taste and smell also become more common.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will run some tests which may include comparing tastes of different chemicals and measuring the strength at which you recognize any of the tastes, ‘sip, spit and rinse’ tests in which chemicals are applied to different areas of the tongue that are responsible for detecting different tastes etc.
Treatment depends on the cause(s), the severity of symptoms, age, judgement of the patient’s capacity to handle prescribed therapies and preference etc and could include changing medicines associated with disorder, treatment of underlying medical condition, counselling etc
Taste disorders can affect the patient’s general quality of life by affecting nutrition, the immune system and other medical conditions. So, every effort should be made to identify the cause and commence treatment.
All the best!