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Taste perception can be affected in a number of ways. A person can have a total loss of taste sensation referred to as Ageusia or there can be a reduction in taste sensation which is referred to as hypogeusia.

The distortion of the taste sensation or a lingering unpleasant taste in the mouth is called dysgeusia. This is much more common than the other two conditions. There are a number of reasons which can cause an alteration in the taste sensation. The most common such conditions are:

- Upper respiratory tract infections

The sense of taste is altered when suffering from common disorders like a sinus infection or even the flu. Streptococcus infections which affect the throat as well as the nasal cavity can also result in a change in the taste perception.

- Middle ear infections are a common cause of dysgeusia as well. The ear, nose and throat are closely related to each other anatomically and this reflects in the number of shared disorders well as the effects these structures have on each other.

- Head and Neck radiation: Patients who have been diagnosed with tumors in the the head and neck region often face dysgeusia after receiving radiation. The radiation causes a death of the cells and neurons that are involved in taste perception. Most often some effect of this remains irreversible and present throughout life.

- Chemical Exposure: Certain chemicals like lead, mercury, insecticides and even repellants case the person exposed to them to have a bad taste in the mouth, which can linger from a few hours to even months, depending upon the amount of exposure.

- Brain Lesions: A tumor or growth in the brain can change the way the brain perceives normal signals from the body. This includes taste as well. While it is rare that taste alteration will be the only symptom in such a case, it can happen.

- Nerve Injury: The nerves involved in carrying the signals to the brain can get damaged during a surgical procedure, accident or any other kind of physical trauma. Damage to the nerves is extremely slow to heal and can result in permanent damage as well.

- Gingivitis and Periodontitis: Inflammation of the gums as seen in gingivitis and destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth in the case of periodontitis happens where there is a disruption of healthy microflora in the mouth. This happens most often because of oral hygiene, however there is a genetic component to the disease occurrence as well.

- Endocrine Disorders: Hormonal changes as seen in diabetes and thyroid gland affect the nerves, thereby causing changes in taste perception. The incidence of these disorders is on the rise as poor eating habits and adultrants in the food become more and more common.

Treatment

Most of these causes of dysgeusia are temporary and they require the identification and treatment of the underlying pathology. Once the basic problem is being treated and is resolved then the taste perception should return back to normal on its own.

There are some cases where the cause of dygeusia cannot be determined. The prognosis for those patients is not very good, although the condition can resolve itself in some cases.

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