Smell and taste disorders, a study of 750 patients from the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1991 May;117(5):519-28. doi: 10.1001/archotol.1991.01870170065015.


Smell and taste disorders are common in the general population, yet little is known about their nature or cause. This article describes a study of 750 patients with complaints of abnormal smell or taste perception from the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center, Philadelphia. Major findings suggest that: chemosensory dysfunction influences quality of life; complaints of taste loss usually reflect loss of smell function; upper respiratory infection, head trauma, and chronic nasal and paranasal sinus disease are the most common causes of the diminution of the sense of smell, with head trauma having the greatest loss; depression frequently accompanies chemosensory distortion; low body weight accompanies burning mouth syndrome; estrogens protect against loss of the sense of smell in postmenopausal women; zinc therapy may provide no benefit to patients with chemosensory dysfunction; and thyroid hormone function is associated with oral sensory distortion. The findings are discussed in relation to management of patients with chemosensory disturbances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Burning Mouth Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications
  • Depression / complications
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Dysgeusia / epidemiology
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nose Diseases / complications
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Paranasal Sinus Diseases / complications
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Sensation
  • Sex Factors
  • Smell / physiology
  • Taste / physiology
  • Taste Disorders / diagnosis
  • Taste Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Thyroid Diseases / complications