Taste and smell disorders are closely related, common conditions that affect many people each year. 

While the issues are rarely life threatening, they can affect your ability to enjoy food and beverages, appreciate pleasant aromas, or detect noxious chemicals and gases (such as natural gas or chemical leaks), which can have more serious consequences.

A disorder of smell or taste may develop because of genetic factors, injury, upper respiratory infections, lifestyle choices, or exposure to certain chemicals, and indicate the presence of other more significant underlying health concern.

Pursuing professional diagnosis and treatment is always recommended.


  • Hypogeusia– A decreased ability to taste strong flavors.
  • Ageusia – A complete loss of taste.
  • Dysgeusia– An abnormal change in taste.


  • Anosmia– A complete loss of smell and the most common smell disorder, which can be temporary or permanent.
  • Dysosmia– A distorted sense of smell in which the person smells unpleasant odors that do not exist.
  • Hyperosmia– An increased sensitivity to smell.
  • Hyposmia– A decreased sense of smell that is usually temporary.
  • Presbyosmia– A gradual decrease in the sense of smell that occurs with aging.


The most common reasons for altered taste and smell include chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), allergic rhinitis, viral infections, trauma, and medications.  You can be at increased risk of smell and taste disorders during your lifetime if you experience these circumstances:

  • Temporary illness – viral infection / cold & flu
  • Chronic sinus diseases, such as rhinosinusitis
  • Allergic rhinitis (allergies and hay fever)
  • Nasal polyps
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Dental hygiene issues
  • Head injuries
  • Some nervous system diseases
  • Serious disorders:
    • Tumors: growths that affect your smell or taste by blocking the olfactory area or destroying the smell and taste area of your nose
    • Seizures: may cause a brief, false sensation of vivid, unpleasant odors – known as “olfactory hallucinations”
    • Coronavirus: Loss of smell is the best indicator of coronavirus infection, usually manifesting long before other common symptoms such as fever or fatigue. Sometimes loss of smell is the only noticeable symptom. Although anosmia caused by coronavirus is generally temporary, it’s advisable to seek treatment if you don’t regain your sense of smell soon after recovery.

In addition, smoking, radiation therapy, and exposure to some kinds of chemicals, insecticides, and medicines can increase your risk of losing smell and taste.  And you can start to lose your sense of smell after age 60 — as you age, the number of olfactory nerve fiber in the nose, as well as taste buds on your tongue, decreases, and those that are left become less sensitive over time


Physical Exam
Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination and collect a health history to understand your problems with smelling and/or tasting.

Smell & Taste Tests
Your doctor will assess your ability to sense common odors and tastes using simple, in-office tests.  Test scores help determine the presence and severity of the sensory loss.

Nasal Endoscopy
A nasal endoscopy will be performed to determine if intranasal inflammation (due to allergic rhinitis, chronic sinusitis, or polyps), or tumors, may be the source of the loss of smell.

Imaging Tests
A computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your head – including your sinuses – may be ordered to check for structural abnormalities, inflammation, or tumors obstructing or destroying the olfactory nerve fibers in the nose or intracranially (in the head).


While taste and smell disorders are not serious, they can often affect daily life and may lead to unpleasant side effects. Treatment for these conditions usually focuses on treating the underlying cause of the condition, while direct treatments may range from simple life changes to surgery. Some cases may improve on their own. Age-related smell disorders often cannot be treated.

Patients experiencing symptoms of a smell or taste disorder should consult with their doctor to receive proper treatment / advice for coping with the condition. Treatment recommendations depend on the cause of the condition.

Antibiotics – If your doctor believes that an infection has caused your smell or taste disorder, he or she may prescribe antibiotic medication to fight that infection. Some patients, notably those with serious respiratory infections or seasonal allergies, regain their smell or taste simply by waiting for their illness to run its course. 

Vitamins or Supplements – Certain smell and taste disorders can be caused by certain medical conditions. Your doctor may recommend you see a specialist or prescribe specific medication for your problem.

Smoking Cessation – Your doctor will recommend that you quit smoking, which can adversely affect your ability to smell and taste.

Medication Assessment – If you regularly use certain medications – such as antihistamines or the antidepressant amitriptyline – you may have a reduced ability to taste. Your doctor may assess how these (and other) medications you are currently taking could be affecting your senses of smell and taste.  Sometimes certain medications are the cause of smell or taste disorders, and improvement occurs when that medicine is stopped or changed.

Dental Hygiene – Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, can affect your ability to taste normally. You will need to address any dental problems you have, and work to improve your dental hygiene habits.

Sinus Surgery When the condition is the result of a nasal polyp or other nasal obstruction, surgery may be required.