Diabetes and Burning Mouth Syndrome
All of us living with diabetes know the long list of serious health complications the disease can directly contribute to, including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, retinopathy and even stroke. This is why we test our blood sugar daily, watch what we eat, exercise, and follow our insulin and other medication plans so strictly.
What some people might not be aware of, however, is the impact diabetes can have on oral health. One condition that can be quite bothersome is called Burning Mouth Syndrome or BMS.
What is Burning Mouth Syndrome?
If you’ve had it, you know! According to the Mayo Clinic, Burning Mouth Syndrome is a medical term describing a chronic burning sensation in the mouth. You might feel it on your cheeks, tongue, lips, or the roof of your mouth, and the discomfort can be severe.
We’ve all eaten that way-too-hot slice of pizza or sipped a ridiculously hot cup of coffee and scalded our mouths. People suffering from Burning Mouth Syndrome often describe the sensation as being very similar. In some individuals, the condition manifests itself suddenly without warning. It others the discomfort begins mildly and gradually increases in intensity over time. Burning Mouth Syndrome can last for days or come and go quite randomly. Symptoms associated with BMS may include:
– Burning or scalding sensation
– Feeling an overly dry mouth or a desperate thirst
– Bitter taste in the mouth or, in some cases, a loss of taste
– Tingling, stinging, numbness in the mouth and on the tongue
The Link to Diabetes
Though it is a pretty rare disorder (only about 2% of the population suffers from it) Burning Mouth Syndrome is by no means limited to those with diabetes. Anyone can suffer from it and the root causes are often unknown. This is why BMS is classified in two ways - primary and secondary. Primary BMS does not have an identifiable cause. Secondary BMS, on the other hand, is related to an underlying condition and one of them is – you guessed it – diabetes. More specifically, diabetes that is not being effectively managed.
When blood sugar is not properly controlled, oral problems are far more likely to occur. This is because high blood sugar weakens the body’s white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infection, including those that can occur in in the mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic, fungal infections of the mouth (also known as oral thrush), can be the underlying cause of Burning Mouth Syndrome. Additionally, certain medications, particularly high-blood pressure medications, which many with Type 2 diabetes are required to take, can contribute to BMS. Last but not least, endocrine disorders themselves, of which diabetes is one, can be at the root of BMS.
Complications of Burning Mouth Syndrome
If there’s any good news surrounding BMS it’s that the condition does not cause or contribute to any serious health or oral problems, nor does it cause any noticeable changes to the appearance of your mouth or tongue. However, this doesn’t change the fact that BMS is an extremely irritating and uncomfortable condition. Sometimes, it can get so bad that eating and sleeping become difficult, which can lead to anxiety, depression and other problems.
What Can You Do About Burning Mouth Syndrome?
If your BMS is being caused by diabetes, the best thing you can do is the best thing you can always do when living with diabetes - get your blood sugar under control! This means following your doctor’s blood sugar testing and treatment schedule, eating a healthy diabetes-friendly diet, and getting in enough exercise.
Remember, if diabetes is the root cause, then you have secondary BMS and once the secondary cause is treated this type of Burning Mouth Syndrome usually goes away.
However, in cases where it doesn’t go away, there are some steps you can take to reduce the severity of BMS. These include:
– avoid spicy and acidic foods
– if you’re a smoker, quit (one of a zillion reasons to stop)
– ask your doctor about any medications that might be triggering BMS
– suck on ice chips or drink cool liquids during the day
– lower your stress levels
– avoid alcohol
– avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol
– try changing your toothpaste
When To Get Help?
As we pointed out earlier, Burning Mouth Syndrome doesn’t really pose any serious health threats. It’s more about your personal comfort or lack of it. In many cases, getting out-of-control blood sugar back in check with proper diabetes testing and treatment will solve the problem. If this doesn’t happen, there’s no reason you should live in discomfort. If you experience persistent or recurring burning or soreness in your mouth, tongue or lips, see your doctor or dentist. In fact, you may need to visit both as they may need to work in concert to create a program to help effectively treat the problem.
At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to providing the diabetic community with regular news and updates on a variety of topics related to living with diabetes. We’re also committed to making it more convenient and affordable to follow your doctor-prescribed blood sugar testing and treatment program.
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