Occasionally you might bite into something that tastes bad, rotten or sour. But if lately your baseline is a bitter, metallic taste in your mouth (think: chomping on pennies), you might be dealing with dysgeusia.
Dysgeusia is a disorder that can alter a person's perception of taste, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, and it could taint your tongue with a metallic flavor.
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If you're experiencing dysgeusia along with fatigue, this might be a sign you're wrestling with another underlying health issue.
If you’ve been tasting metal for more than a week, see your doctor, who can perform a proper health assessment and help you determine what’s going on, Dr. Li says.
1. Certain Infections
Feeling tired along with a tinny taste on your tongue could indicate an infection.
"An infection of the upper airways, sinuses or ears can produce inflammation that affects your taste buds, and these can cause you to experience a temporary metallic taste in your mouth," Dr. Li says.
While you've probably heard that a loss of taste and smell is a possible side effect of a coronavirus infection, some people have also reported a metallic taste after contracting COVID-19, Dr. Li says.
Though dysgeusia is not a cardinal symptom of COVID-19, the disease might trigger a metallic taste that lingers for weeks or months after you've recovered from other symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
3. Allergies and Hay Fever
From sniffling to sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, there's no shortage of annoying allergy and hay fever symptoms. And now you can add a meddling metallic taste to your litany of complaints.
"Allergies or hay fever can also cause inflammation in the tongue and mouth that alters taste buds, leading to a metallic taste," Dr. Li says.
And it's your system's same inflammatory response (that results when your body tries to offset your symptoms) that makes you feel fatigued, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
4. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to an altered sense of taste, and the result can be a metallic-flavored mouth, Dr. Li says.
Similarly, a zinc insufficiency can trigger taste abnormalities and mental lethargy, per the National Institutes of Health.
"On the other hand, some vitamins and supplements also contain metals like [chromium], copper or zinc, and you may be tasting those metals," especially if you're taking them in excess, Dr. Li says.
5. Certain Medications
If you're feeling tired and have a tinny tang in your mouth, your medication might be the culprit.
Some medications — including antibiotics, blood pressure medications and certain chemotherapy drugs (more on this later) — can cause a metallic taste, Dr. Li says.
Additionally, certain medicines used to treat psychiatric conditions, including lithium and antidepressants, can also affect your sense of taste, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
In fact, you're likely to taste metals in medications that contain metallic elements like copper or lithium, Dr. Li says. That's because once your body absorbs the medicine, the silvery taste surfaces in your saliva, per the Cleveland Clinic.
One reason for this might be the prevalence of oral thrush — a fungal infection of the mouth — in people with diabetes, per the Cleveland Clinic. Here's why: Fungus flourishes on the high glucose levels in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes, and this can lead to an inflamed tongue. And as we know, inflammation can alter the taste buds.
In addition to oral thrush and metal mouth, diabetes may also cause dry mouth, increase your risk for gum disease and inhibit healing in the mouth, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you're experiencing these symptoms, tell your doctor and dentist immediately as this may indicate your diabetes isn't being managed well.
From congestion to cravings, pregnancy can produce some strange side effects, including dysgeusia.
This altered sense of taste is likely the result of pregnancy hormones, which also affect your energy levels, per UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Fortunately, the coppery flavor in your mouth is only temporary, as dysgeusia tends to fade after the first trimester, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (Same goes for fatigue.)
8. Kidney Issues
"Kidney disease can also change your metabolism in ways that lead to a metallic taste," Dr. Li says.
In addition to a shift in your taste buds, chronic kidney disease may also present with the following symptoms, per the Cleveland Clinic:
- Frequent urination
- Tiredness and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of your hands, feet and ankles
- Shortness of breath
- Bloody or foamy urine
- Puffy eyes
- Dry, itchy and/or darkening skin
- Trouble concentrating and sleeping
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- High blood pressure
If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately, as kidney disease can lead to serious health complications.
9. Certain Types of Cancer and Cancer Treatments
While fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment, you may not know that certain cancer therapies, including radiation and chemotherapy, can also alter your senses of smell and taste, according to the American Cancer Society.
What's more, some kinds of cancer themselves, like tumors in the head and neck, can cause a silvery savor too.
In addition to experiencing a metallic taste in your mouth, you might notice other changes, like a reduced (or stronger) sense of smell, an inability to taste food or food tasting too salty or sweet, per the American Cancer Society.
How to Manage the Metallic Taste in Your Mouth
Again, if the metallic tang on your tongue lasts longer than a week, consult with your doctor who can help determine a proper diagnosis. Once the underlying condition has been treated, the metallic taste in your mouth should subside.
But in the meantime, here's how you can minimize metal mouth, according to the Cleveland Clinic:
- Practice good oral hygiene. Maintain a healthy mouth by brushing, flossing and tongue-scraping.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause temporary dysgeusia.
- Use non-metal cutlery like bamboo or ceramic. Metal can, well, make metallic flavors taste worse.
- Rinse with baking soda and warm water. This can adjust the pH balance of your mouth and help to neutralize acid.
- Quit smoking. Cigarettes may aggravate the taste of metal.
- Pop a piece of sugar-free gum. This can temporarily tamp down the metal taste.
- Eat foods that mask the taste of metal. Citrus fruits, sour foods and sweeteners (in moderation) can all aid in reducing the coppery taste.
- Cleveland Clinic: “Allergies Got You Fuzzy-Headed? Here’s Why + How to Cope"
- American Cancer Society: “Taste and Smell Changes”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful”
- National Institutes of Health: “Zinc”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Common Causes for a Metallic Taste in Your Mouth”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Kidney Disease / Chronic Kidney Disease"
- UT Southwestern Medical Center: “5 weird pregnancy symptoms you might not know about”
- American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery: “Dysgeusia”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Oral Health Problems and Diabetes”
- American Dental Association: “5 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Mouth”
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.