Brain lesions may be cause of taste loss in MS patients

By Stephen Feller  |  Feb. 8, 2016 at 3:43 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Brain lesions caused by multiple sclerosis may damage the sense of taste in patients, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found in a recent study.

Though they said a definite causal link between the two wasn't proven in the study, a much higher rate of patients had taste impediments than was expected, and the more lesions seen on an MRI, the worse the taste function of the patient.

More common symptoms of MS include fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and vision loss. Taste problems are reported less often, researchers said, however many people mistake issues with smell and taste, so they may be under-reported.

"It appears that a sizable number of these patients exhibit taste deficits, more so than originally thought," Dr. Richard Doty, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Smell and Taste Center, said in a press release. "This suggests that altered taste function, though less noticeable than changes in vision, is a relatively common feature in MS."

For the study, published in the Journal of Neurology, researchers recruited 73 multiple sclerosis patients and 73 healthy people, giving them a standard taste test -- sweet, sour, bitter and salty -- and taking MRI scans of both groups for 52 regions of the brain affected by MS.

Overall, twice as many MS patients' taste scores were deficient than was expected based on previous studies.

The percentage of MS patients whose identification of taste score fell below the 5th percentile of healthy people was 15.07 percent for caffeine, 21.9 percent for citric acid, 24.66 percent for sucrose, and 31.50 for sodium chloride.

The researchers said the new association between smell and MS could help doctors better diagnose the disease and manage its symptoms.

"These findings give us a better insight about that relationship, as well as the areas of the brain that are more likely to impact the dysfunction when scarred from the disease," Doty said.

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