Ageusia is a rare disorder which is characterised by the loss of taste i.e. a person suffering from ageusia cannot detect different kinds of taste like sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and umami or the savoury taste. In many ways, ageusia is like blindness and deafness which are also caused due to the loss of an important sensory faculty. While complete ageusia is extremely rare, people commonly suffer from different kinds of taste disorders. Significantly, the loss of taste is closely related to the loss of smell. Therefore, if an individual is finding it difficult to differentiate between tastes, it might be caused by a smell disorder in some cases.
Causes of Ageusia
Under normal circumstances, when you eat something, the taste buds located on your tongue are stimulated and they transmit impulses to specific centres in the brain. As a result of this, the neurons present in the brain identify a particular taste. When a part of this mechanism starts malfunctioning, people start showing symptoms of ageusia. Here are a few common causes of this disorder:
1. When the taste buds are stimulated, they convey a message to the brain through specialised nerves like the lingual and glossopharyngeal nerve. If a person is suffering from diseases like Bell’s palsy or multiple sclerosis, some of these nerves might be damaged. Consequently, they might stop functioning efficiently and the patient might develop a taste disorder.
2. Certain forms of hormone imbalances caused due to the deficiency of zinc and niacin can also cause ageusia. This is seen most commonly in diabetes mellitus patients.
3. Local damage to the taste buds can also cause mild forms of taste disorders. For instance, constant use of tobacco interferes with the normal functioning of the taste buds and is a common cause of ageusia.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Ageusia is diagnosed after conducting some tests which measure the responsiveness of the taste buds to different chemicals. The severity of the disorder can also be diagnosed by changing the concentration and the quantity of the chemicals. Depending on the results of the diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe a treatment method for you. In some cases, oral medication will help you regain your sense of taste. However, cases of severe ageusia might not be treatable at all. In such a scenario, the patient undergoes therapy which is meant to help him or her adapt to the condition.