Our sense of taste and smell are very closely linked. Problems with either of them can have a real impact, especially on the way we eat and drink.

How can your taste and smell change after stroke?

A stroke can affect your taste in a number of different ways, so you may:
  • not be able to taste things as well as you did before, so flavours may not be as obvious or strong
  • get a salty, bad or metallic taste in your mouth
  • lose your sense of taste completely.
If a stroke affects your sense of smell you may:
  • not be able to smell things as well as you did before, so smells may not be as strong
  • become oversensitive to smell, so that smells become really strong
  • have a distorted sense of smell
  • lose your sense of smell completely.

Why does it happen?

Your taste and smell can change because of damage to your brain
If the part of your brain that controls and receives information from your senses is affected by your stroke, then this can cause problems with your taste and/or smell.
Other problems can also add to these changes. Although it can be difficult to maintain good oral hygiene when you’ve had a stroke, if your teeth and mouth aren’t clean and healthy this can affect your sense of taste. A virus or infection can also have an effect on your sense of taste and smell. 

Does it get better?

Problems with taste or smell can be very frustrating to live with and they may mean that you don't enjoy eating and drinking as much as you did before. However, many people find that they do improve over time.
Even if you are left with longer term problems, there are things that can help you cope and limit the impact it has on your life.

Are there any treatments that can help?

There aren’t any specific treatments that can help to correct your sense of taste or smell. 
However, if your taste or smell has changed since your stroke you should talk to your GP. They can check if there may be anything else that could be causing the problems, such as your medication or other conditions.
They will also be able to refer you to a dietitian or an otolaryngologist (a doctor that specialises in nose and throat problems) for advice. 

Find out more

There's more information, including helpful tips for living with taste problems, in our leaflet on the rare effects of stroke.