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Problems With Taste: Treatment and Research



Although there is no treatment for the gradual loss of taste that occurs with aging, relief from taste disorders is possible for many older people. Depending on the cause of your problem with taste, your doctor may be able to treat it or suggest ways to handle it. Scientists are studying how loss of taste occurs so that treatments can be developed.

Treatment and Research - Treatment

  • Often, a certain medication is the cause of a taste disorder, and stopping or changing the medicine may help eliminate the problem. If you take medications, ask your doctor if they can affect your sense of taste. If so, ask if you can take other medications or safely reduce the dose.

  • Do not stop taking your medications unless directed by your doctor. Your doctor will work with you to get the medicines you need while trying to reduce unwanted side effects.

  • Some patients regain their sense of taste when the condition or illness that is causing the loss of taste is over. Often, correcting the general medical problem can restore the sense of taste.

  • Because your sense of taste may diminish gradually, you may not even notice the change. But your diet may change, and not for the better. You may lose interest in food and eat less, but you may choose foods that are high in fat and sugars. Or, you may eat more than you should, hoping to get more flavor from every bite.

  • Photo of spicesIf you lose some or all of your sense of taste, there are things you can do to make your food taste better:

    • Prepare foods with a variety of colors, shapes, and textures

    • Use aromatic herbs and hot spices to add more flavor

 

  • There are more things you can do to make your food taste better:

    • If your diet permits, use cheese sauces, bacon bits, or small amounts of butter on vegetables

    • Add sharp cheese, olive oil, or toasted nuts

    • Avoid combination dishes that can hide individual flavors and dilute taste

  • If you cannot regain your sense of taste, there are things you can do to ensure your safety. Take extra care to avoid food that may have spoiled. If you live with other people, ask them to smell and taste food to see if it is fresh. People who live alone should discard food if there is a chance it is spoiled.

  • For those who wish to have additional help, there may be support groups in your area. These are often associated with smell and taste clinics. Some on-line bulletin boards also allow people with chemosensory disorders to share their experiences. Not all people with taste disorders will regain their sense of taste, but most can learn to live with it.

Quiz

1. If medication is causing a taste disorder, you should

A. stop your medicine immediately
B. see your pharmacist
C. see your doctor

C is the correct answer. If medication is causing a taste disorder, you should see your doctor. Often he or she will be able to prescribe another medication or lower the dose. Your doctor will work with you to get the medicines you need with minimal side effects.

2. Taste is often regained when

A. an illness has run its course
B. a general medical condition is resolved
C. your medication is changed
D. all of the above

D is the correct answer. Most cases of taste loss are temporary. Taste is usually restored when the condition or illness clears up, or when your medication is changed.

3. If your sense of taste cannot be regained, you should

A. eat more food

B. eat less food

C. prepare food that is appealing and varied in terms of texture, colors, and shapes


C is the correct answer. If you have lost your sense of taste, it is very important to prepare food that is appealing and flavorful. Be creative and use herbs and spices to make your food more appetizing.

4. If you need additional help to cope with your taste disorder try

A. a support group

B. on-line bulletin boards

C. contacting the nearest smell and taste clinic

D. all of the above


D is the correct answer. Not all people with taste disorders will regain their sense of taste, but most can learn to cope with it by seeking additional help. Many people find that sharing their experience with others can be beneficial.

Treatment and Research - Research

  • The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders funds basic and clinical studies of smell and taste disorders. This type of research is leading to a fuller understanding of how our sense of taste works and how we detect and taste sensations at the molecular level.

  • Scientists have made progress in understanding how our sense of taste changes as we age. For example, we now know that age takes a much greater toll on smell than it does on taste. Also, taste cells -- and smell cells -- are the only sensory cells that are regularly replaced throughout life. Understanding why this happens may help researchers find ways to replace damaged sensory cells.

  • Older adults often decide what to eat based on how much they like or dislike certain tastes. Scientists are looking at how and why this happens in order to develop more effective ways to help older people cope better with taste problems.

  • Scientists are also working to find out why some medications and medical procedures can have a harmful effect on our sense of taste and our sense of smell. They hope to come up with treatments to help restore the sense of taste to people who've lost it. Possible solutions include medicines and artificial food products that will allow older adults with taste disorders to enjoy food again.

Quiz

1. As we age, our sense of taste usually declines more than our sense of smell.

FALSE is the correct answer. Age takes a much greater toll on smell than it does on taste. Our sense of taste remains robust into later years, but our sense of smell tends to decline gradually.

2. As we age, our bodies stop making new taste and smell cells.

FALSE is the correct answer. Our bodies continue to make taste and smell cells as we age. In fact, these are the only sensory cells that are regularly replaced throughout life.

3. Older adults often decide what to eat based on how much they like or dislike certain tastes.

TRUE is the correct answer. Liking or disliking certain tastes can influence a person's food choices. Scientists are looking at how and why this happens in order to develop more effective ways to help older people cope better with taste problems.

4. Scientists are looking at ways to help restore the sense of taste in older adults who have lost their ability to taste.

TRUE is the correct answer. Scientists hope to come up with treatments to help restore the sense of taste to people who've lost it. Possible solutions include medicines and artificial food products that will allow older adults with taste disorders to enjoy food again.

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