Loss of taste and smell can be caused by some illnesses, conditions, medicines, and dental problems. People can also be born with such disorders. Although taste and smell are two distinct senses, they’re closely intertwined. The mouth and nose are connected, so sensations of taste and smell often reach the brain at the same time. It’s impossible to say just how much taste and smell affect
Although taste and smell are two distinct senses, they’re closely intertwined. The mouth and nose are connected, so sensations of taste and smell often reach the brain at the same time. It’s impossible to say just how much taste and smell affect each other, but anyone who has lost their sense of taste and smell knows that the two are closely related.
Loss of taste and smell has come into the spotlight because it can be a symptom of COVID-19. However, there are lots of other disorders that can cause loss of taste or smell. This article covers the conditions that can lead to loss of taste and smell, and what might help you regain those senses.
The loss of taste and smell or changes to those senses can present in a variety of ways. The olfactory disorders (disorders affecting smell) are:
Taste disorders include:
These conditions can come up for a variety of reasons and might be temporary or permanent. If you experience loss of taste or smell, it’s important to get to the root cause of your olfactory or taste disorder.
That root cause could be a number of things. In some cases, a change to taste or smell can be an early warning sign of another condition. Many people who report a problem with taste actually have an olfactory problem. Here are common causes for loss of taste and smell.
Certain medical treatments and medications can affect your ability to taste and smell. These include:
If you have lost your sense of taste and smell, you should visit an otolaryngologist, or ENT. This is a doctor who specializes in the ears, nose, and throat.
An ENT will use tests to determine how severe your loss of smell or taste is, and whether particular odors or tastes are impacted more than others. Some tests measure the smallest amount of smell or taste that you can detect. Others ask you to correctly identify certain tastes or smells.
Losing smell or taste might sound minor—until you experience it. Smell and taste are both important for overall health. A strong sense of smell can help you identify dangers like a gas leak or spoiled food. A sense of taste is important for feeling satisfied while eating. People with loss of taste and smell are at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.
If you lose your sense of taste or smell, you should talk to a healthcare professional. They will work to identify the cause of your loss. That will determine what treatment is used.
If your loss is due to a medical issue, addressing that can help return your sense of smell. This might mean changing medications, getting treatment for congestion, or starting an allergy medication.
In other cases, like with COVID-19 or a concussion, you’ll have to wait for your senses of taste and smell to return. Some people experience a spontaneous return or their sense of taste and smell but, in rare cases, the conditions can be permanent.
You can also adopt lifestyle changes to enhance sensations of taste and smell. Cooking with aromatic ingredients, using bold colors, or adding spices can increase your satisfaction from meals. Counseling can also help with the emotional side of losing your sense of taste and smell.
Loss of taste and smell can happen for many reasons. It might be due to a virus, including COVID-19. But it can also be a warning sign for serious medical issues, including dementia or a concussion. If you experience a loss of taste or smell, it’s important to talk with your healthcare professional. They can help you treat what is causing it and determine if you need further care.
Coping with the loss of taste and smell, even temporarily, can be difficult. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet even when your sensations are limited. Talk to your healthcare provider about tips for enhancing satisfaction from meals. At the same time, be sure to address the emotional impacts of losing your sense of taste and smell.
In some cases, like with the common cold, taste and smell will return when congestion clears. In other cases, like with concussions or neurological conditions, the loss can last for months. Rarely, it can be permanent.
Most people with COVID will get their sense of smell back within a month of losing it. Between 49% and 72% of people who lost their sense of smell, and 84% of people who lost their sense of taste had it back within that time. However, some people will experience permanent changes.
Yes, you can lose taste and smell with a cold. This is usually due to nasal congestion and should resolve when congestion clears.