The Five Senses and Beyond: The Encyclopedia of Perception - Jennifer L. Hellier 2017


Individuals with hypogeusia have a reduced ability to taste bitter, salty, sour, sweet, and umami. Hypogeusia is a type of dysgeusia, which means a distorted sense of taste. A person who has no sense of taste has a disorder called ageusia.

Signs, Symptoms, and Causes

The main symptom of hypogeusia is complaining that food and beverages are not as flavorful, meaning candy may not taste as sweet or popcorn not as salty. It is common for a person with hypogeusia to oversalt or oversweeten food and beverages to intensify the flavor of meals and drinks. Usually, a change in taste perception is a side effect of an underlying disease or cause. Since the sense of taste is interrelated with the sense of smell, a person with allergies, a cold, or flu may suffer from hypogeusia. This is because the nasal passage is congested, resulting in decreased ability to sense smells through retronasal olfaction. This cause of hypogeusia is short term and lasts for the duration of the condition. Other acute conditions that may cause hypogeusia are gum disease, dental plaque, and some medications.

Common treatments for cancers, chemotherapy, and radiation (particularly to the head and neck region), can often cause hypogeusia. Chemotherapy and radiation can affect the normal mucosal layer of the mouth, resulting in sores and decreased saliva production, and thus resulting in hypogeusia. Saliva is important for the gustatory system as it brings the tastants to the taste cells—within taste buds—for binding. Reduced saliva decreases the ability of tastants to bind to taste cells.


In most acute cases of hypogeusia, the symptoms will improve as the underlying cause heals. However, if the cause is from a prescribed medication that reduced saliva production, then patients can increase their saliva by sucking on hard candies, lozenges, or breath mints. Chewing gum—particularly sugarless gum—can also increase saliva production. If these over-the-counter treatments are not successful, a health care provider can prescribe artificial saliva or other drugs that can increase saliva production, such as pilocarpine. In some cases of drug-induced hypogeusia, decreasing the medication’s dose or substituting for another drug is an alternative treatment.

Jennifer L. Hellier

See also: Ageusia; Bitter Sensation; Dysgeusia; Salty Sensation; Sour Sensation; Sweet Sensation; Taste Aversion; Taste System; Umami

Further Reading

Cowart, Beverly J. (2011). Taste dysfunction: A practical guide for oral medicine. Oral Diseases, 17, 2—6.

Halyard, Michele Y. (2009). Taste and smell alterations in cancer patients—Real problems with few solutions. Journal of Supportive Oncology, 7(2), 68—69.

Malaty, John, & Irene A. C. Malaty. (2013). Smell and taste disorders in primary care. American Family Physician, 88(12), 852—859.