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Is Burning Mouth Syndrome a Virus?

Find out how patients are finding relief from oral mucositis caused by chemotherapy

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Is Burning Mouth Syndrome a Virus?

For those who suffer from it, burning mouth syndrome (BMS) can be an especially frustrating condition. Not only do the symptoms often make simple tasks like eating or speaking difficult, but they can also linger for months or years with little to no improvement in some cases.

Part of what makes BMS so tough to treat is that there are a number of health issues that could cause a person to experience the symptoms; for some patients, a simple nutritional deficiency might be to blame, while another person’s BMS might be the result of complications with diabetes or something equally serious. One question people often ask is whether burning mouth syndrome is caused by a virus. To find out, keep reading as the people at Chemo Mouthpiece™ provide some answers.

Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome

As the name suggests, a burning or scalding sensation is a primary symptom of burning mouth syndrome, but it is by no means the only one. Some patients with this ailment report experiencing tingling or numbness in the mouth, while others develop an unpleasant metallic or bitter taste or a loss of their sense of taste.

Those with BMS may also experience dry mouth (xerostomia) and excessive thirst. These sensations are often concentrated on the tongue, but they can also affect the cheeks, lips, throat, palate, or gums of some patients, or they can affect the entire oral cavity.

Many people with burning mouth syndrome say that their symptoms abate somewhat when they eat or drink. Some BMS patients have intense pain or discomfort that lasts all day, while others might have intermittent symptoms that come and go or symptoms that start out mild but gradually get worse as the day goes on. Though these symptoms often appear suddenly, they rarely disappear in the same way; those afflicted by burning mouth syndrome can struggle with their condition for weeks, months, or even years, especially those with primary BMS (Source).

Finding the Cause of Burning Mouth Syndrome

Though it’s often referred to as a single illness, burning mouth syndrome actually comes in two distinct forms: primary BMS and secondary BMS. The symptoms of each of these forms are essentially the same; the distinction between them is based on whether the cause of a patient’s symptoms can be identified through testing. When you report your BMS symptoms to your doctor, they will likely perform the following tests to try and find out the source of your discomfort.

  • Salivary flow tests
  • Blood tests
  • Oral cultures or swabs
  • Biopsies of the affected tissue
  • Acid reflux tests
  • Psychological evaluations
  • Food allergy tests
  • Adjustments of medication
  • Imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans

If one of these tests turn up a positive result, it will likely lead to a diagnosis of secondary burning mouth syndrome. If, however, your doctor is unable to find a cause for your discomfort, you will be diagnosed with primary BMS, which is often more difficult to treat because there is no underlying condition for your physician to target. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of BMS, talk to your doctor right away.

Can a Virus Cause Burning Mouth Syndrome?

Because burning mouth syndrome isn’t well-understood, it’s difficult to say with certainty whether a virus can cause these symptoms. To date, there is no clear evidence linking BMS to any particular virus, though there are some viruses that can cause oral pain similar to what a BMS patient might experience.

Those infected with the herpes simplex virus or coxsackievirus, for instance, could develop gingivostomatitis, a condition in which painful sores can develop in the same areas affected by burning mouth syndrome, including the tongue.

However, these symptoms tend to differ from those of BMS because they cause a noticeable physical change to the surface of the affected tissue while burning mouth syndrome doesn’t typically have any visible indicators. In short, while it is not impossible that a virus could be to blame for your BMS symptoms, odds are the cause is something else (Source).

Common Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome

Although a virus is probably not the reason for your burning mouth syndrome, there are many other conditions, including other types of infections, that could be causing your discomfort. Below are some of the most common causes of burning mouth syndrome:

  • Problems with the body’s endocrine system, such as those caused by diabetes or an underactive thyroid
  • Oral infections, including fungal infections like thrush or oral lichen planus
  • Certain medications, especially those used to treat high blood pressure
  • Extreme dry mouth, such as what might occur as a side effect of chemotherapy
  • A lack of certain nutrients, namely zinc, iron, or a form of vitamin B
  • Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Sensitivities or allergies to certain foods, dyes, or fragrances
  • Psychological issues, including stress or a mental illness like anxiety or depression
  • Poor oral habits, including overbrushing or biting the tip of the tongue

While some of these problems are more serious than others, all of them represent a treatment target for those suffering from burning mouth syndrome. Without an identifiable cause, there’s little a doctor can do to alleviate symptoms, making mitigation the best option for those with primary BMS (Source).

Try an Oral Ice Pack to Help Burning Mouth Syndrome

If you suffer daily as a result of burning mouth syndrome, know that help is available. Though it was originally designed to help with chemo-induced oral mucositis, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can nonetheless prove effective at alleviating the symptoms of BMS.

Learn more about our powerful oral cryotherapy device by visiting us online or calling (866) 461-7518 today.


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