What is Ageusia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ageusia is the inability to taste. True ageusia is quite rare, and it can be caused by a number of things. More commonly, people have what is known as a “taste disorder,” meaning that their sense of taste is impaired, but not entirely absent. Many taste disorders are linked to smell disorders since the experiences of smell and taste are very closely related. People who suffer from ageusia often seek medical attention, since taste is viewed as a critical sense by many humans.

Many taste disorders are linked to smell disorders.
Many taste disorders are linked to smell disorders.

In true ageusia, a patient cannot taste anything applied to his or her tongue. More commonly, people have hypogeusia, a taste disorder in which the patient has trouble differentiating tastes or experiencing certain tastes. Older people, for example, tend to be less sensitive to bitter flavors. People can also develop dysgeusia, in which the sense of taste is distorted or altered.

The inability to taste is referred to as ageusia.
The inability to taste is referred to as ageusia.

On its own, ageusia is a problem for many sufferers because it interferes with the enjoyment of food. Someone with ageusia may eat substantially less than he or she should, potentially experiencing malnourishment. The sense of taste is also critically important in detecting signs that food has gone “off,” in combination with the sense of smell, which means that someone with ageusia may eat something which makes him or her sick.

Congenital ageusia, in which someone is born without a sense of taste, is very unusual. More commonly, the condition is acquired as a result of neurological problems, endocrine issues, or localized problems such as infection, inflammation, or damage to the tongue. Smokers and drinkers also tend to experience ageusia because their taste buds are desensitized by their habits.

To diagnose ageusia, a doctor usually performs a taste test, determining which tastes people can detect, and at which concentrations. Taste testing kits are available for this purpose, allowing doctors to use carefully calibrated tastes to test their patients. The doctor may also review the patient's history to get at the underlying cause of the problem, and to determine a course of treatment.

Treatments for ageusia vary, depending on the cause of the condition. A healthy smoker, for example, might be able to resolve the problem by cutting back on smoking or quitting altogether. Someone with a neurological or endocrine problem might discover that the ageusia will be resolved if the underlying medical condition is addressed with medication, surgery, or other forms of medical therapy.

Injuries to the papillae on the tongue can also damage taste buds and lead to ageusia.
Injuries to the papillae on the tongue can also damage taste buds and lead to ageusia.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


After a relatively heavy cold almost two weeks ago, I am still having difficulty in detecting any taste from my food - although my sense of smell has somewhat returned. I also have had undiagnosed unilateral anosmia since early childhood, and I'm concerned that this current lack of taste stems from my functioning olfactory senses being damaged by this recent cold/flu.

I am feeling somewhat phobic about this - hoping it will resolve itself in the next few days.


@Post 2: I feel bad for you.


i have no taste or smell due to a concussion that occurred four years ago. I am 57 and at times never want to eat again. Any suggestions as to how to get some enjoyment out of food again?


Very helpful! Two doctors did not mention this disorder. But I do not have taste or smell. They said I would never taste anything again. I am 76. Thank goodness I'm not 50. I see my doc tomorrow and will mention it. Thank you.

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