Burning tongue can be a very irritating and painful symptom of menopause. Just like the name suggests, burning tongue occurs when an individual experiences a burning sensation on the tongue. Everyone has sipped a beverage such as coffee or tea that is too hot and burned her tongue. This is the sensation that those who suffer from burning tongue 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.
What is burning tongue?
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 instantaneous, 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.
What causes burning tongue?
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 Oestrogen levels. In fact, burning tongue affects up to 40% of menopausal women, with the onset typically occurring between 3 years prior to menopause and 12 years following menopause.
Oestrogen is known to play a part in the makeup of the saliva, which researchers believe can cause burning tongue once Oestrogen levels decrease. But perhaps more prominently, Oestrogen affects the bitter taste buds located at the back of the tongue. Without adequate levels of Oestrogen, some women begin to lose their bitter taste buds. These taste buds are surrounded by a basket- like collection of pain neurons that activate when the taste buds are damaged by lack of oestrogen.
Other causes of burning tongue
Although hormonal imbalance is the primary cause of burning tongue in women at the age of menopause and older, there are other causes of burning tongue as well. They are:
- Oral candida (oral yeast)
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Medications (diuretics, oral diabetic meds, some blood pressure meds)
- Blood abnormalities (dyscrasias, anemia)
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially vitamin B-12, niacin, iron, or folic acid)
- Gastric acid reflux
- Allergies (foods, toothpastes, mouthwashes, chewing gums)
- Geographic tongue
- Dental disease
- Noxious oral habits (tongue biting, scalloped tongue)
- Psychological causes (depression)
- Chronic infections
- Inflammatory disorders
- Lingual nerve damage
- Tobacco use
- Oral cancer.