Tongue diseases

How To Treat Dysgeusia

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: July 9, 2020
How To Treat Dysgeusia

If you feel a persistent metallic taste in your mouth, then perhaps you are suffering from a medical condition termed as dysgeusia. In this disease, tastes on your tongue become distorted. Usually you feel a constant acidic, bitter taste in your mouth which lingers throughout the day. This happens no matter if you have eaten something or not. The cause may vary, but it is usually not a symptom of something troubling. However, it definitely affects your desire to eat and relish food. Your apetite, diet and general health can be affected by knock on consequences. At oneHOWTO article, we are going to discuss this medical condition in more detail so you can find out how to treat Dysgeusia.

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  1. Symptoms of Dysgeusia
  2. Causes of Dysgeusia
  3. Treatment of Dysgeusia
  4. How to Manage Dysgeusia
  5. Precautions To Take If You Have Dysgeusia

Symptoms of Dysgeusia

First of all, let’s have a look at the symptoms of dysgeusia. A metallic taste, decreased general sense of taste and a deteriorated sense of smell are the major symptoms of this disease. How long your dysgeusia lasts depends on the cause of the condition. For instance, if it is due to a gum disease or medication, then it will subside as soon as you stop the medicine or get the gum disease treated. But if it is due to a lesion or nerve damage in the taste pathway, then it may last longer and need adequate treatment.

You may also experience other symptoms of the underlying disease. With gum disease like gingivitis, you might experience a foul odor on your breath or even bleeding gums. Dysgeusia is not causing these symptoms, it is merely another on the list. In this case, treating the gum disease should rid you of the unpleasant taste.

Dysgeusia is different from other taste related issues. Hypoguesia is when you have a reduction in the 4 types of taste - bitter, sour, salty, and sweet. Aguesia is when none of these tastes can be perceived. Dysgeusia is when the tastes are altered. While it can be disappointing to not be able to taste your food (something which certainly can result in loss of appetite), dysgeusia can make your food taste horrible. This can make the once enjoyable process of eating very off-putting. If the patient is elderly or considered more at risk, the potential weight loss can be very concerning[1].

Causes of Dysgeusia

Treatment of dysgeusia may vary, depending on the underlying cause of your condition. Some of the causes are:

  • Zinc deficiency is one of the major causes of dysgeusia. Zinc is responsible for repairing and producing taste buds, and its lack may directly or indirectly your sense of taste.
  • Cancer patients have to undergo chemotherapy which damages oral cavity and often results in oral infection, oral mucositis and dysfunction in the salivary gland. Non-pathogenic agents present in your oral cavities may get stimulated during chemotherapy, after which you may lose your salivary tissues and lead to dysgeusia.
  • Distortions in taste buds can lead to dysgeusia in many cases as well. Patients with this condition have less microvilli and reduced taste bud cells. This can interfere with the patient’s gustatory pathway, after which the patient may not be able to differentiate between tastes and flavors.
  • Certain drugs like zopiclone, emedastine and azelastine can affect taste and trigger symptoms of dysgeusia. Drugs like tetracyclines and lithium carbonate can leave traces on the tongue and lead to metallic taste in the mouth. Drugs like captopril and pencillamine that contain sulfyhydryl groups may cause reaction with zinc and lead to its deficiency. Calcium channel blockers such as amlodipine may block calcium sensitive taste sensors in your mouth, and lead to dysguesia
  • Oral health problems can lead to unpleasant and distorted tastes on the tongue. If you have periodontal issues like the aforementioned gum disease, it can provide a metal taste. Infection around certain teeth can cause dysgeusia also.
  • Infections in your respiratory tract such as tonsillitis or sinusitis can be at the cause of the problem. When these infections are treated (usually by antibiotics), the bad taste issues should resolve.
  • There is some research to suggest that the mental health of a person might affect their sense of taste. When diagnosing dysgeusia, the patient's psychological state should at least be considered[2]. This is because the condition may be psychosomatic, although it is usually only considered after other possible causes have been exhausted.

Treatment of Dysgeusia

These methods can be effective in treating Dysgeusia:

Treatment with pilocarpine and artificial saliva

Usage of many drugs causes a reduction in the production and flow of saliva. This leads to your sense of taste becoming disturbed and resulting in the above symptoms of Dysgeusia. You can control these symptoms by using lozenges, gums and mints. Oral pilocarpine and artificial saliva can be efficient in increasing the flow of saliva from your glands. The artificial saliva that you produce with these agents mimics natural saliva and works to lubricate your mouth. Pilocarpine works the same way as the acetylcholine neurotransmitter, that is responsible for stimulating your salivary glands and activating saliva production.

Zinc supplements

Most of the distortions in your sense of taste are caused due to deficiency of zinc in your body. Certain medicines may bind or chelate zinc element in your body, which prevents it from functioning the way it should. Since zinc deficiency is linked with taste related disorders to a great extent, supplementation of this element can be effective in successfully treating dysgeusia. If your dysgeusia is caused due to zinc deficiency, then taking 25 to 100 mg of zinc supplements can be efficient in treating your taste dysfunction. However, make sure you see a doctor before changing your supplements.

Infusion of zinc in chemotherapy

A large percentage of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy complain about decreased sense of taste. In order to manage this, experts have now started infusing zinc supplement in chemotherapy. Patient's often notice a marked difference and the related increased appetite can be very helpful in cancer recovery. However, zinc infusion needs to be kept under control, as overdosage of it can lead to serious negative effects on the patient’s immune system. So, if a cancer patient already has compromised immunity, then administering zinc may not be recommended for them.

Changing medicine

If your dysgeusia is caused as a side effect of a particular drug, it can be reversed by stopping that medicine and changing it with a suitable alternative. There are certain drugs like eprosartan that can lead to a loss of taste and tongue numbness. Eprosartan can be simply alternated with valsartan and you should notice that your symptoms cease within a few days. Again, speak with your doctor if you are considering a change to your medication.

Administration of alpha lipoic acid

Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant which human cells naturally produce. You can also consume it in the form of oral capsules or through diet from offal, yeast and red meat. It works by removing harmful free radicals from your body which damage your organs and tissues. It also works as a coenzyme that helps the antioxidant production, intracellular glutathione and growth of nerves. This acid is also known to improve the nerve conduction velocity. Since you differentiate flavors with your tongue nerves due to their electric potential, alpha lipoic acid can make changes in your neuropathy and also treat burning sensation in your mouth.

Treating underlying cause

If your case of dysgeusia is due to an underlying cause, then treatment of this cause is paramount if you want to get rid of it. If the problem is gum disease such as gingivitis, then improving your oral hygiene and visiting a dentist is necessary. If the problem is psychosomatic, it is likely that a psychological evaluation is required.

How To Treat Dysgeusia - Treatment of Dysgeusia

How to Manage Dysgeusia

In addition to treating dysgeusia using the above mentioned treatment methods, you may also manage it to alleviate its symptoms. There may be certain instances when you cannot treat dysgeusia. For instance, if you have low immunity and you are receiving chemotherapy, your chemotherapy will not be infused with zinc and you will have to live with dysgeusia.

Sometimes is not easy to simply switch medications. You may be allergic to certain medicines which force you to take their alternatives, even if they produce the symptoms of dysgeusia. In such circumstances, here are a few things you can do to help manage dysgeusia:

  • Cooking or eating food in non-metallic silverware only
  • Avoiding foods that taste bitter or metallic
  • Increasing consumption of foods that are rich in protein
  • Flavoring foods with seasonings and spices
  • Eating food cold so that you don't notice any unpleasant odor or taste in it
  • Frequently brushing your teeth
  • Rinsing with mouth wash regularly
  • Using chewing gum to stimulate saliva production

Precautions To Take If You Have Dysgeusia

Although dysgeusia should not have direct negative effects on your health, you may be forced to lead a life devoid of taste and flavors. Because you don’t like food any more, you may eat less. This may result in loss of weight, malnutrition, deteriorated health and impaired immunity.

Many people with dysgeusia tend to add too much of salt, sugar or spices to their food as a way to compensate the lack of taste. This can worsen the condition further and lead to many other health related problems in future. In severe cases of dysgeusia, patients may develop psychological and psychiatric effects as well, such as behavioral changes, anorexia, paranoia, delusions, amnesia, lethargy, cerebellar malfunction etc. In such cases, it becomes all the more important to take the condition seriously and get it treated to improve quality of life.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How To Treat Dysgeusia, we recommend you visit our Family health category.

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