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Burning Mouth Syndrome

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Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is now a recognised medical phenomenon that can become a chronic, vexing condition. It is estimated that BMS affects about seven in every 10,000 people. The primary symptom is an oral sensation of heat; patients have described the sensation as being like having a mouth full of hot coffee. There can be an accompanying bitter or metallic taste and/or a dry mouth sensation. Clinical and laboratory testing is often inconclusive.

It can become so painful that it prevents sleep and makes eating nearly impossible. Its symptoms are so untraceable that patients are often thought to be suffering from an emotional or psychological problem by family and doctors unfamiliar with the disorder. Even major hospitals have been known to throw up their hands when confronted by patients with these symptoms.

The syndrome is more likely to affect women, often after they have gone through the menopause. The symptoms often coincide with one or another health problems, but the treatment of the potentially related problems has not proven likely to change the severity of BMS.

A partial recovery has been known to occur, spontaneously, within six to seven years after the syndrome's onset, but only in about two thirds of sufferers.

The good news is that some treatments have been found to be effective in providing relief. Potentially efficacious medicines include tricyclic antidepressants (like amitriptyline - brand name, Elavil); benzodiazepines (like clonazepam - brand name, Klonopin; or, chlordiazepoxide brand name - Librium); even anticonvulsants have proven effective in some cases.

Another potential source of relief is hot-pepper sauce mouth rinses (Capsaicin), though this can also aggravate the symptoms in some patients. It is not understood how these medicines or rinses provide relief. They may merely change the taste system, or provide psychological distractions from the sensations.

More information can be found at the American Family Physicians site.

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