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Loss of taste and smell: Natural with aging?

Is loss of taste and smell normal with aging — or could loss of taste and smell have other causes?

Some loss of taste and smell is natural with aging, especially after age 60. Various other factors also can contribute to loss of taste and smell, however, including:

  • Nasal and sinus problems, such as allergies, sinusitis or nasal polyps
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Tooth decay or poor dental hygiene
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Head or facial injury
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease

Loss of taste and smell can have a significant impact on quality of life, often leading to decreased appetite and poor nutrition. Sometimes loss of taste and smell contributes to depression. Loss of taste and smell also might tempt you to use excess salt or sugar on your food to enhance the taste which could be a problem if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.

If you're experiencing loss of taste and smell, consult your doctor. Although you can't reverse age-related loss of taste and smell, some causes of impaired taste and smell are treatable. For example, your doctor might adjust your medications if they're contributing to the problem. Many nasal and sinus conditions can be treated with medication or outpatient procedures. Likewise, dental problems are often treatable as well. If you smoke, quitting can help restore your sense of taste and smell.

If necessary, your doctor might recommend consulting an allergist, otolaryngologist, neurologist or other specialist.

Updated: 11/5/2011

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