Burning tongue can be a very irritating and painful symptom of menopause. Like the name suggests, burning tongue occurs when an individual experiences a burning sensation on the tongue or in the mouth. Everyone has sipped a beverage such as coffee or tea that is too hot and burned their tongue. This is the sensation burning tongue sufferers experience constantly.
Burning tongue affects women seven times as often as men. Women going through hormonal transitions, such as the time leading up to menopause, are at an even greater risk of developing the symptom, because hormonal imbalance is known to cause burning tongue. Continue reading to learn more about burning tongue, its causes, and ways to treat it.
About Burning Tongue
Did You Know?
Burning mouth pain is often absent during the night, but progressively increases throughout the day and into the evening.
Also known as burning mouth syndrome, burning tongue has a self-explanatory name. It is also known by its medical names: glossodynia, glossopyrosis, oral galvanism, stomatodynia, and stomatopyrosis. Burning tongue is accompanied by burning pain on the tongue, especially on the tip or back of the tongue, or other areas of the mouth. Following the onset, which is often spontaneous, burning tongue has been known to last for several years. There are typically no visible signs or lesions on the tongue or mouth in those who suffer from it.
Other common symptoms of burning tongue are dry, itchy mouth, a metallic taste or numb sensation in the mouth. Please see the image for the full list of common symptoms.
Continue reading to learn more about the causes of burning tongue.
Causes of Burning Tongue
Did You Know?
There are several possible causes of burning tongue, but because it is most common in postmenopausal women, researchers believe the primary cause in women is hormonal imbalance, specifically low estrogen levels. In fact, burning tongue affects up to 40% of menopausal women, with the onset typically occurring between three years prior to menopause and 12 years following menopause.
Estrogen is known to play a part in the secretion of saliva, which researchers believe can cause burning tongue once estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen also affects the bitter taste buds located at the back of the tongue. Without adequate levels of estrogen, they bitter taste buds may lose their functionality. These taste buds are surrounded by a basket-like collection of pain neurons that activate when the taste buds are damaged by lack of estrogen.
Other causes of burning tongue
Although hormonal imbalance is the primary cause of burning tongue in menopausal women, there are other causes of burning tongue as well, including:
- Tobacco use
- Oral candida (oral yeast)
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Gastric acid reflux
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially vitamin B12, niacin, iron, or folic acid)
- Allergies (foods, toothpastes, mouthwashes, chewing gums)
- Noxious oral habits (tongue biting, scalloped tongue)
- Geographic tongue
- Dental disease
- Chronic infections
- Inflammatory disorders
- Lingual nerve damage
- Oral cancer
- Blood abnormalities (dyscrasias, anemia)
- Medications (diuretics, oral diabetic meds, some blood pressure meds)
If pain or soreness in your tongue, lips, gums, or other areas of your mouth persists for several days, consult a doctor. A doctor can search for the possible causes and recommend treatment options.
Continue reading to learn the treatment options for burning tongue.
Burning Tongue Treatments
Because burning tongue triggers physical pain and discomfort, those who suffer from it often seek treatment. When exploring treatment options, it's important to begin with methods that carry the least amount of risk and progress from there.
Did You Know?
This means that lifestyle changes are the best place to begin. Some simple tasks can alleviate some of the discomfort of burning tongue. Drinking more water, for instance, can stimulate saliva production and relieve some of the symptoms. It is best to avoid spicy foods, cinnamon, and mint.
Typically, combining lifestyle changes and alternative medicines will produce the best outcome. Alternative medicines can be different herbs and supplements, or even techniques like aromatherapy. When seeking out alternative medicines, it is important to find treatments that can balance hormone levels, which target symptoms at the source.
Finally, if burning tongue persists, there are different medications and surgeries that can be explored. Medications are often prescribed simply to cope with burning tongue, but do nothing to treat the source of the problem. This final option also comes with the most risks and side effects.
Click on the following link to learn specific treatments for burning tongue, which begin with lifestyle changes, move on to alternative medicines, and finally, if those options are ineffective, medications and surgery. The most effective treatments for burning tongue typically combine lifestyle changes and alternative medicines.
- Dahiya, P. et al. (2013). Burning Mouth Syndrome and Menopause. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4(1), 15-20. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3570906/
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (2014). Burning Mouth Syndrome. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/Burning/BurningMouthSyndrome.htm
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Oral health fact sheet. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/oral-health.html