Metallic taste

Alternative names 
Loss of taste; Taste - impaired; Dysgeusia

Definition
Taste impairment ranges from distorted taste to a complete loss of taste.

Considerations
The tongue can “taste” only sweet, salty, sour, and bitter sensations. Much of what is perceived as “taste” is actually smell.

Taste abnormalities can be caused by anything that interrupts the transfer of taste stimuli to the brain, or conditions that affect the way the brain interprets taste stimuli.

Common Causes

     
  • common cold  
  • nasal infection, Nasal polyps, sinusitis  
  • salivary gland infections  
  • influenza  
  • viral pharyngitis  
  • mouth dryness  
  • aging (the number of taste buds diminishes with age)  
  • heavy smoking (especially pipe smoking) which causes mouth dryness  
  • vitamin (vitamin B-12) or mineral (Zinc in diet) deficiency  
  • injury to the mouth, nose, or head  
  • gingivitis  
  • side effects of drugs such as antithyroid drugs, captopril, griseofulvin, lithium, penicillamine, procarbazine, rifampin, vinblastine, or vincristine  
  • Bell’s palsy  
  • Sjogren’s syndrome  
  • strep throat

Home Care
Follow prescribed therapy, which may include a diet modification. For the common cold or flu, taste senses should return to normal after the illness has past. For smokers, stop smoking.

Call your health care provider if

     
  • there are prolonged and unexplained taste abnormalities.  
  • abnormal taste is associated with other symptoms.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions documenting the taste changes in detail may include:

     
  • time pattern       o How long has this change been present?  
  • quality       o What kind of taste change has been noticed?       o Do all foods and drinks taste the same?       o Have any changes in sense of smell been noticed?       o Does this change in taste affect the ability to eat normally?  
  • aggravating factors       o Is smoking a practice? How much?       o Has there been a recent cold?       o What medications are being taken?       o Have there been any recent injuries?       o Are there allergies?       o Have teeth and gums been checked by a dentist recently?       o Have toothpaste or mouthwash recently been changed?  
  • relieving factors       o Is there anything that relieves this altered taste?       o Are there any foods or drinks that taste normal?  
  • other       o What other symptoms are also present?       o How is the appetite?       o Are there any problems with breathing?

A physical examination may be performed with emphasis on the taste and smelling senses and may include examination of nose, throat, and ears. Diagnostic tests including taste and smell testing may be performed based on the history and physical examination findings.

After seeing your health care provider:
If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider related to taste changes, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.