Linda Mutton: Nurse with a special interest in the menopause

A more unusual but not uncommon symptom of menopause.

One slightly more unusual symptom of the menopause is Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS). It is more common in women than men and particularly women over 50 years of age.

It is associated with the menopause and one study suggests it affects 18-33% of all menopausal women.

Symptoms

  • Pain and discomfort in the mouth lips and tongue described as a tingling, scalding, numbness or burning sensation.
  • Other symptoms may include a dry mouth, a bitter or metallic taste and loss of taste.

BMS symptoms may be mild or severe and may come and go or be there permanently.

Causes 

  • Hormonal changes. It is linked with a low oestrogen level (associated with menopause)
  • Other hormonal problems such as thyroid conditions (under active) may also cause BMS
  • Medication such as ACE inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure)
  • Vitamin deficiencies such as zinc, iron, and some B vitamins
  • Allergies
  • Mouth infection such as oral thrush
  • Dry mouth
  • Acid reflux
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Some dental procedures

What help is available?

Treatment 

HRT may relieve symptoms in menopausal women, although there are no clear studies as yet to show how effective this is.

It is however important to rule out any other causes.

Other treatment includes:

  • Medication such as some antidepressants may help
  • Drinking plenty of fluids and try sucking ice chips
  • Change of toothpaste (try one for sensitive teeth or containing bicarbonate of soda to neutralize acid)
  • Avoid acidic foods, alcohol and cigarettes
  • Relaxation therapies may help

Good News 

Research suggests half of all people with BMS report it improves or goes away completely, however this may take several years. HRT may help if the cause is low oestrogen although it may take several months to improve or resolve.

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