We are able to appreciate the pleasures of life with the help of our senses including the sense of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Our ability to smell and taste enables us to enjoy the flavor and taste of food, allows us to appreciate the various fragrances around us and also protects us by helping us to detect the good from the bad.
The senses of smell and taste serve as an early warning system against spoiled food products, toxins, polluted air and smoke. Physiologically, the chemical senses facilitate normal digestion by triggering gastrointestinal secretions.
A change in the ability to taste and smell could indicate the presence of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, malnutrition or neurological disorders.
Of all the chemosensory disorders, loss of the senses of smell (anosmia) and taste (ageusia) are the most common. Reductions in these senses are known as hyposmia and hypogeusia, respectively.
When a person develops a condition that affects his smelling ability, he may completely lose his sense of smell or he may smell things differently, while those who have a taste disorder may not be able to distinguish tastes or may end up tasting things that donít exist.
Taste and smell disorders are capable of affecting the quality of life of an individual; nevertheless, they are usually sidelined by the medical fraternity as something of less significance. What is of concern is that such dysfunction can have adverse health effects, especially in the elderly, and has been associated with malnutrition, weakened immune system, and weight loss. The affected persons usually indulge in excess use of sugar and salt in order to compensate for their taste and smell impairment. This is detrimental to health, especially to those with diabetes and hypertension.
There are many reasons as to why a person develops smell and taste disorder. Common reasons are head injury, cold, certain medications, certain sinus diseases, oral diseases, Bellís palsy, oral procedures or even appliances such as dentures. Age is another important contributing factor.