Last Updated on Apr 23, 2013

How can we Diagnose Smell and Taste Disorders?

Detailed medical history and physical examination can help to diagnose taste and smell impairment in a person.

The diagnosis of smell and taste disorder can be done by taking down the medical history of the patient and by physically examining the mouth and nose. In some cases, it may be followed up with a CT scan or an MRI.

Medical History

The patient should be asked about-

  • Sinus problems, head injury or respiratory problems
  • Use of cocaine /tobacco
  • Dental procedures
  • Gastrointestinal reflux
  • Medications taken
  • Illnesses such as hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus

b) Physical examination must be carried out on-

Head and neck, to look for obstruction, inflammation and infection.

Mucous membranes, for dryness, leukoplakia and exudate.

Patient's teeth and gums, to detect conditions like severe dental caries, intraoral abscess, oral candidial infections (especially in immune compromised patients) or gingivitis

c) A neurologic examination involves the careful analysis of any damage to a cranial nerve (nerve supplying to the head and neck region) and the loss of its function

d) Common laboratory tests include the Smell Identification Test for olfactory testing. The patient is made to “scratch and sniff” 40 microencapsulated odorants and the scores are evaluated.

For evaluating a taste problem, a "Sip, spit, and rinse" test may be carried out. Here, chemicals are directly applied to specific areas of the tongue and the patient’s feedback is taken and evaluated. A detailed medical history also needs to be taken.

References:

  1. Smell and Taste Disorders: A Primary Care Approach - (http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0115/p427.html)
  2. Smell and Taste Disorders - (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/otolaryngology/smell_and_taste_disorders_chemosensory_disorders_85,P00466/)
  3. Smell and Taste Disorders: A Primary Care Approach
  4. STEVEN M. BROMLEY, M.D., University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, New York
  5. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Jan 15;61(2):427-436.

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