What Are Smell and Taste Disturbances?

Anosmia, the loss of the sense of smell, and ageusia, the loss of the sense of taste, are more than just inconveniences. They can indicate a serious medical condition. If you experience a sudden or complete loss of the sense of smell or taste that’s not associated with a cold, allergies or chronic rhinitis, contact your physician for a thorough exam.

The sense of smell is based in olfactory cells located in the nose, while the sense of taste is located in gustatory cells in the taste buds of the mouth and throat. Both types of cells naturally begin to decline after the age of 60, sometimes leading to unintentional weight loss, malnutrition and depression.

The impaired sense of smell is called hyposmia, and the impaired sense of taste is called hypogeusia.

Smell and taste loss can cause a variety of concerns, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of pleasure in eating
  • Inability to detect:
    • Food that has spoiled
    • Dangerous chemical smells
    • Smoke from a fire
    • Gas leaks

The opposite problem is hyperosmia, or the increased sensitivity to smells. These changes may be caused by a genetic trait, hormone changes or migraine headaches.