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Burning Mouth Syndrome is a poorly understood condition and the exact causes for it are as yet unknown. Patients diagnosed with Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) can have a wide ranging variety of symptoms, but all complain of a burning sensation in the various oral structures like the tongue, lips, and gums. This burning cannot be attributed to any identifiable physical defect or abnormality in the oral structures either.

Epidemiology

The incidence of the Burning Mouth Syndrome is found much more commonly in women than in men. It is also found more commonly in Caucasian populations as compared to other races. The exact reason for this skew in incidence in unknown.

Symptoms

A sensation of burning in the mouth that increases in severity over the course of the day is the main symptom. This can be acutely painful for the patient. The nature of the pain may be continuous or episodic. It can last for weeks to months on end and then disappear for some time. This interval of rest also varies greatly among patients.

Other symptoms like a dry mouth, the inability to eat even mild spices, frequent blistering and pus filled lesions on the mucosa are also observed in patients with BMS.

Possible causes

In almost half of all cases diagnosed as Burning Mouth Syndrome, the cause is not identifiable. There are some theories that are being tested with scientific research, however none of them have yet been statistically proven beyond doubt.

Some commonly identified markers are a decrease in progesterone and estrogen, an alteration in the proteins found in saliva, and an autoimmune reaction. Other factors such as depression have been looked at as some researchers feel that Burning Mouth Syndrome has a psychosomatic origin, although it is not yet clear if depression precedes the symptoms or is a result of the pain and discomfort patients face.

Chronic parafunctional habits like bruxism and rubbing the tongue against the palate are also associated with the disease.

An increased incidence of the disease has been seen in patients who are suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of Burning Mouth Syndrome is only given when the patient complains of pain in the mouth throughout the day while the mucosa appears to be normal and all other local and systemic cause have been excluded.

As per the definition, it takes time to come to a diagnosis of this disease and doctors will try other tests and treatments before coming to this conclusion.

Treatment

The first and foremost thing is to try and treat the recognizable risk factors such as depression and parafunctional habits. Treatment with antidepressants and anticonvulsants has shown promising results although as yet, there is no one clear treatment protocol that works for everybody.

Medication as well as therapy and behavioral modification in conjunction with each other is most likely to work.

In almost two thirds of the reported cases, patients saw a resolution of symptoms spontaneously. In others, the symptoms were permanent and persisted throughout life.

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