Mercury poisoning or hydrargyria occurs when the body is exposed to mercury or its compounds. Symptoms that are indicative of mercury poisoning are lack of coordination and visual/speech difficulties. There might be skin shedding, pigmentation and peripheral neuropathy. The intensity of the symptoms varies based on the exposure. Some persons exposed to mercury might notice difficulty in breathing, bad cough and metallic taste. There might be lung damage and brain damage, based on intensity of mercury inhalation. Once mercury exposure is identified, removal of the source is critical. The clothes, skin and eyes must be cleaned. Chelation therapy might be done on a person who has considerable mercury load in the body.
Dysgeusia refers to a distortion in the sense of taste that leaves a persistent foul, metallic taste in the mouth. The taste could even be described as bitter and rancid that stays on and disturbs the desire to eat.
Dysgeusia, if sustained, can have an impact on the quality of life of patients. It can lead to problems like loss of appetite, malnutrition and depression. Dysgeusia can occur at any age. However, taste disturbances are common among the elderly taking multiple medications. Our taste buds are found on the tongue and on the roof of the mouth. They contain cells that collect taste information and send it to the brain. The sense of taste is closely associated with the sense of smell. Some people with Dysgeusia also have an altered sense of smell that affects sense of taste. This is because most of the taste sensations are controlled by nerve cells involved with smell.
Dysgeusia could be caused by several conditions ranging from simple cold and dental problems to serious ones like cancer treatment that alters an individual's sense of taste. Some of the causes are listed below.
Diagnosis of Dysgeusia
Dysgeusia is most often diagnosed during a clinical examination. The physician will make note of the history of the patient and will also enquire about the present medical condition that may be causing taste distortion. He may order few blood tests to assess zinc and other vitamin deficiencies that might be causing metallic taste. There are certain 'taste tests' to identify the sense of taste and smell. Taste tests allow the patient to respond to different concentrations of a substance. Sometimes a chemical that releases sour, sweet, bitter and salty taste is directly applied on the tongue that helps in determining if Dysgeusia is present or not.
If the Dysgeusia is related to neurological condition that has damaged the nerves of mouth or head, CT scan and other imaging tests are performed to assess the extent of damage.
Treatment of Dysgeusia
Many a times, Dysgeusia is reversible. Treatment for the condition depends upon the underlying disease that is causing the metallic taste. Dysgeusia disappears on its own if it is caused by minor problems like cold and dental infections. However, Dysgeusia may almost become untreatable, if it is caused by nerve damage.
If, certain medication is causing the bitter taste in the mouth, the doctor may alter the dosage or prescribe alternate medicine to provide relief. Recent studies show that artificial saliva and mouth wash containing pilocarpine gives much needed relief in cases of medicine-induced Dysgeusia.
Some simple remedies to improve the saliva flow in the mouth also go a long way in treating taste distortion. Chewing on breath mints, sugarless gum, or lozenges will encourage saliva and remove the bitter taste in the mouth.
Most patients suffer from Dysgeusia due to zinc deficiency. Such patients are treated with zinc supplementation.
Few natural remedies like rinsing the mouth with salt solution, brushing twice or thrice a day, consuming citrus fruits, adding more seasoning and spice to the food, and drinking more water are simple measures that help in treating Dysgeusia.
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Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: December 5, 2023