A metallic taste in the mouth, also called dysgeusia or parageusia, is a taste disorder in which a person perceives the taste of metal even though nothing is in the mouth. It can sometimes occur alongside fatigue, which is a constant feeling of exhaustion and lack of energy.
A metallic taste by itself may be due to poor oral health. When a person has both a metallic taste and fatigue, the possible causes can range from medication side effects to more serious underlying medical problems, such as kidney disease.
In this article, we discuss eight possible causes of metallic taste and fatigue, the treatment options, and when to see a doctor.
Taste dysgeusia is a lingering, unpleasant sensation in the mouth that causes a person to experience a metallic, foul, or rancid taste. When something alters the normal function of the taste buds and their related nerve pathways, it can result in a taste disorder and fatigue.
Common symptoms of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, include sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and a stuffy or runny nose.
A person may experience a metallic taste due to inflamed nasal passages and problems smelling food. Hay fever also often makes a person feel fatigued and irritable.
Sinus, upper respiratory, and ear infections
Infections of the sinuses, ears, and upper airways cause inflammation that can disturb the senses of smell and taste.
Medication side effects
Taste disorders and fatigue are among the side effects of many commonly prescribed medications. According to 2019 research, the information about 282 (17%) of the 1,645 drugs registered in the study’s database mentioned dysgeusia.
Some medications that may cause a metallic taste and fatigue include:
- certain antibiotics, such as clarithromycin and tinidazole
- iron supplements to treat iron deficiency anemia
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
A vitamin B-12 deficiency can produce a wide variety of symptoms that may include shortness of breath, a pins-and-needles sensation in the hands and feet, yellow tinged skin, and mood changes.
A vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause fatigue as it can impair a person’s ability to produce red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. Severe deficiency may begin affecting the nerves, which may result in a metallic taste in the mouth.
A metallic taste in the mouth is a common complaint during the first trimester of pregnancy. Many pregnant women also experience fatigue.
The hormones in the body fluctuate during pregnancy. This oscillation can affect the senses, which can cause specific cravings and make some foods or smells seem disgusting.
Women may also experience headaches, dizziness, and morning sickness when pregnant.
When the kidneys are not functioning properly, waste materials can build up in the blood. This accumulation can cause a person to experience fatigue and a metallic taste in the mouth.
In addition to metallic taste and fatigue, common kidney disease symptoms may include body pain, swelling, and trouble breathing.
In some cases, a person may experience these symptoms due to kidney damage from poisoning. For example, lead, glaze, and solder poisoning result in kidney damage and can cause dysgeusia and fatigue.
Central nervous system disorders
The taste buds send signals to the brain through the cranial nerves. An injury within the central nervous system, such as a stroke, head trauma, or Bell’s palsy, can cause a taste disorder with fatigue.
Additional symptoms, such as confusion, vision problems, a headache, and drooling, may also be present.
Up to 86% of people undergoing chemotherapy, radiation therapy (especially to the head and neck region), or both to treat cancer reported taste changes.
This change is temporary, and a normal sense of taste should return eventually. Various expert tips are available to help people undergoing cancer treatment enjoy foods as normally as possible.
Fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatments that involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or biologic therapy.
A person experiencing a metallic taste and fatigue should talk to their doctor. Either a telemedicine visit or an in-person appointment will likely be necessary for the doctor to make a diagnosis.
The doctor will ask questions about the person’s symptoms and past medical history. Depending on the answers, they will either conduct a focused exam of the head and neck or perform a full physical exam.
The doctor may also order blood tests or other imaging studies, such as a CT scan. In some cases, they might refer the individual to an otolaryngologist — a healthcare professional who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, and throat.
The treatment for metallic taste and fatigue will depend on the underlying cause of these symptoms.
With some causes, such as pregnancy and cancer treatment, the metallic taste and fatigue will resolve in time. Other causes may require changes to the person’s diet or medications.
A person should always consult a doctor before making any changes to their prescription medications.
|Hay fever||Allergy medication and avoiding allergy triggers|
|Sinus, upper respiratory, and ear infections||Decongestants, saline rinse, and rest|
|Medication side effects||Medication adjustment or discontinuation and home remedies|
|Vitamin B-12 deficiency||Vitamin B-12 supplements or increased intake of foods high in this vitamin|
|Pregnancy||Home remedies and rest|
|Kidney damage||Dietary changes, blood pressure control, and medications|
|Central nervous system disorders||Individualized treatment plan that may include home remedies, corticosteroids, and rest|
|Cancer treatment||Home remedies and frequent rest periods|
The following home remedies may help relieve the metallic taste:
- eating citrus fruits or sipping juices, such as orange or lemon juice
- sucking on a piece of lemon candy before meals
- avoiding using metallic utensils and cookware
- drinking herbal teas
- eating yogurt
- staying well-hydrated
- brushing the teeth and tongue before meals
- rinsing with salt water, baking soda, or antibacterial mouthwash before eating
Impaired taste can lead a person to eat more or less food or to consume too much sugar or salt in their diet. These dietary changes can cause or worsen other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Anyone experiencing a metallic taste alongside fatigue should see a doctor to determine both the underlying cause and the best course of treatment.
A metallic taste and fatigue may be temporary side effects of medication or symptoms of pregnancy. They could also be the result of a more serious medical disorder.
Often, treating the underlying medical problem will resolve the symptoms.
Anyone experiencing a metallic taste and fatigue should speak to a doctor for a diagnosis.