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Burning Mouth Syndrome

Menopause and Burning Mouth Syndrome

Menopause Burning Mouth Syndrome causes a host of oral symptoms that can interfere with personal comfort during menopause.

Though one of the least common symptoms of menopause, burning mouth is experienced by countless women as they approach the end of fertility.

Unmanaged Burning Mouth Syndrome can also lead to secondary health concerns, as dental health may become affected.

Definition of Burning Mouth Syndrome
Menopause burning mouth syndrome occurs when women experience sensations of pain and irritation throughout the mouth and tongue, with no visible sign of lesions — and no secondary cause beyond the hormonal imbalances associated with menopause.

Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Tingling in the mouth
- Numbness of the mouth and tongue
- Metallic taste
- Sore tongue
- Itching mouth
- Aching oral tissues
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst

Burning Mouth Syndrome can cause pain and soreness throughout the mouth and tongue. Symptoms of burning mouth can also include sensations of aching, tingling and chronic oral itching. Many women experience heightened thirst along with burning mouth that occurs during menopause. In some cases, the tongue — or the mouth itself — can feel numb without warning. Moisture levels in the mouth may also decline, leading to dry mouth, causing tooth decay and gum disease if left untreated. Many women also experience unpleasant tastes or odors in the mouth, such as the inexplicable taste of metal.

Symptoms of burning mouth generally onset suddenly. In most cases, burning mouth is usually less noticeable — or even not present — at night. Most women find symptoms of burning mouth begin in the morning and continue to worsen throughout the day.

Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome
Burning Mouth Syndrome affects 40 percent of all menopausal women, triggered by hormone imbalances that occur with age. Estrogen affects both the production of saliva and the sensitivity of taste buds, so lower levels of the hormone in menopause can have adverse effects on the mouth and tongue. Lowered estrogen levels especially affect the taste buds that sense bitterness. Since these taste buds are surrounded by pain neurons, the pain sensors may become more active as the taste buds atrophy. Nutritional deficiencies, oral fungus such as candidiasis, acid reflux and damage to nerves can also contribute to Burning Mouth Syndrome.

Burning Mouth Syndrome Treatments
Menopause burning mouth syndrome can best be treated by addressing the hormonal imbalance that causes symptoms during menopause. Health care professionals can check for other possible causes such as thyroid problems or nutritional deficiencies and prescribe treatments for them, as well as suggesting appropriate pain relievers.

Lifestyle changes can also help a great deal. Women may experience some relief by avoiding hot or spicy foods, astringent mouthwashes and acidic foods such as citrus fruits. Sipping water frequently can also help alleviate dry mouth symptoms, and chewing sugarless gum may also moisten the oral tissues (though cinnamon or mint flavors tend to aggravate the condition). Women should also avoid alcohol, cigarettes or other tobacco products, as these will further irritate the oral tissues and tongue.

Burning Mouth Syndrome FAQs

Q: Could medications I am taking have an effect on burning mouth syndrome?
A: Definitely. Some medications, especially angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are used to control high blood pressure, can worsen burning mouth syndrome or even be a primary cause. Ask your doctor whether there is a substitute medication available.

Burning mouth syndrome causes moderate to severe pain and can last for many years. This chronic pain can also cause anxiety, irritability and depression. Though the pain often goes away at night, the emotional upset of chronic pain can cause sleep problems. In some cases, sufferers have such difficulty eating that they may become malnourished.

Q: What is burning mouth syndrome?
A: Burning mouth syndrome, or BMS, is a surprisingly common condition that usually affects women of menopausal age. It is characterized by intense sensations of heat that affect parts of the mouth, tongue, throat and cheeks. Little is known about this condition, but it is widely believed by the scientific community that the hormonal instability that develops during female menopause influences the development of BMS.

Q: Who is affected by BMS?
A: Although men can experience burning mouth syndrome to some degree, it almost exclusively affects the middle-aged female population. This is why medical professionals believe the condition is caused by estrogen deficiency and hormonal transition. Perimenopausal women also can experience BMS.

Q: What causes BMS?
A: During menopause, a woman's body begins to vastly decrease its production of female hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone. Because estrogen is such an important chemical, a lack of it can cause a huge array of physical and mental side effects. The bitter taste buds that are located at the back of the tongue are dependent upon estrogen to remain healthy. When the female body begins to reduce its production of this hormone, bitter taste buds suffer and pain signals are released to the brain. When this occurs, burning sensations can manifest within the mouth.

Even though menopause seems to be the most prevalent culprit of BMS, there are certain health conditions and bad habits that also can induce this condition. Certain forms of cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure can alter the chemistry of the body and cause burning mouth syndrome. Smoking, drinking overly acidic drinks and other similar habits also can influence the development of this condition by creating sensitivity and burning sensations.

Q: How to treat burning mouth syndrome?
A: BMS may seem nearly impossible to treat. Fortunately, if your burning mouth is a product of menopause and hormonal instability, you can alleviate the condition the same way you would approach other side effects of the midlife transition. If you are unaware of these methods, the following are several examples:

- Maintaining a healthy diet is of the utmost importance. Balanced dietary choices ensure balanced levels of estrogen and other hormones, which is an integral feature of alleviating burning mouth syndrome and many other symptoms of menopause and hormonal instability. Soy products and green vegetables are especially providential, giving your body the B vitamins and other essential nutrients it needs during menopause especially.

- Performing relaxation exercises, like yoga and meditation, is also very beneficial to the menopausal woman experiencing uncomfortable side effects. Many symptoms of hormonal transition can be easily reduced or completely eliminated by eliminating stress from your daily life. Breathing exercises and other similar activities, when performed several times each day, can help to alleviate burning mouth syndrome and more.

- Because the female body decreases its production of estrogen during menopause, replenishing the famished reserves of this important hormone can alleviate a whole host of issues associated with hormonal instability, including burning mouth syndrome. Although this can be accomplished with costly and dangerous pharmaceutical methods, like hormone replacement therapy, natural remedies are by far the more agreeable choice. Certain herbs and plants contain a naturally occurring form of estrogen, phytoestrogen. This natural hormone helps to restore lost reserves of this chemical in the female body, reducing the occurrence of BMS and other side effects of menopause.

-When attempting to treat any symptoms of menopause you should always remember to achieve adequate hydration by drinking at least eight glasses of water daily. Not only will water help to keep the body functioning optimally, but it also can quell the burning sensations that BMS produce in your mouth and around your tongue.