Sore mouth/tongue: What is burning mouth syndrome?
Burning mouth syndrome is a name given to discomfort, burning or pain in the mouth. It often affects the tongue, lips and cheeks but other parts of the skin lining inside the mouth can also feel uncomfortable. Most people with the condition complain of inability to eat spicy food.
Burning mouth syndrome is a common condition. It often affects women more than men, particularly after the menopause. Up to one in three older women report noticing a burning sensation in their mouth.
Anaemia, vitamin deficiency, iron deficiency, oral thrush (fungal infection). Hormonal changes around the menopause can be related to burning mouth syndrome. It can also occur or get worse when somebody is stressed, anxious or depressed, or going through a difficult time.
What will happen to me?
If you describe a burning sensation in your mouth you will be examined thoroughly to make sure another medical or dental cause is not responsible. Some blood tests may be arranged for you to look for such a possible cause.
Sometimes people get worried that they may have mouth cancer. This is quite a common anxiety of people with burning mouth syndrome. Carrying out a thorough examination and any necessary tests will enable your doctor to reassure you that all is normal with no signs of cancer.
Ruling out the causes listed above or treating if any deficiency is detected in the blood test. Hormone replacement therapy hasn’t been shown to improve the symptoms, and neither have vitamins if your blood tests are normal. Symptoms often improve following reassurance that there is no serious disease present in the mouth. The burning feelings can sometimes be worse at times of stress and go away when life is running more smoothly. For some patients treatment with low doses of antidepressants can help.
For some patients none of the treatment works and therefore altering lifestyle, avoiding precipitating factors may be helpful. Trying not to focus on the condition, learning to live with the sensation, and knowing that there are no underlying serious disease can sometimes be the best way of managing this common problem.