Yes, Mother’s Day is this weekend and each successive holiday is a combo pack for me.
On one side, there is the great joy we take in our wonderful daughters and the special families they are both creating. Feeling appreciated for the love, time, energy, and creativity I invest in them, and an added bonus this year of a precious grandson who is still trying to pronounce “Gigi” and who gives me gorgeous, gap-toothed smiles and amazingly strong hugs.
On the other side, there is the 14th anniversary of this go-around with Burning Mouth Syndrome. The 15th year begins the day after Mother’s Day with no end in sight.
There is nothing else like this in my life and it has had effects that I am probably not even aware of yet. Experts say that the body remembers trauma, whether mental or physical, and it may be surprising to see what outcomes await those of us who deal with chronic pain for years or even decades.
Strange title for a post on a blog that has “One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome” in its title, right?
But it seems to be necessary at this time of divisiveness and stress to reiterate that this is my experience. Yes, I do reference what little research has been done on this burning neuralgia, and will continue to send people to the BMS Support Website where they can read it themselves.
The truth is that NO ONE KNOWS what causes Burning Mouth. You can suspect dental work (I do personally!), or stress, or vaccines of any kind, or whatever you want to, but again I stress that NO ONE KNOWS.
When I decided to start this blog, it was for two reasons. One was to give me an outlet to say how it was feeling to me and what it was doing to me. Expressing yourself can give some relief. The second was to share what I learned about it, all the things I tried, how I got my diagnosis, and what coping strategies helped me and might help others.
My pain had been decreasing, and the distraction of helping others (always a good coping strategy) seemed to be making things even better. I took less medicine and reached for the cold water less frequently as I quenched thirst, not pain.
Then I had my yearly dental checkup and teeth cleaning this week, and although my hygienist was so careful and gentle, the burning is back. As I sit typing this, mid-morning, my tongue feels as painful as ever and my cold drink is by my side as much as possible.
I probably should have known better since I experienced remission once long ago, and it was not a gradual thing at all. I simply woke one morning in London with no pain. I thought the antibiotic I started before leaving on the vacation had worked, and celebrated that it was “over,” but I didn’t really have a clue that I was in remission at the time. I thought I was cured!
So, my Burning Mouth Syndrome friends, the journey continues. I will increase my dose of Clonazepam/Klonopin ODT slightly until this flare subsides, but will go back to the lowest dose as soon as it is possible.
I plan to keep searching and talking with you. I will stay informed by the Burning Mouth Support website as possible research and studies may lead to treatments or cures over time.
In May, I began a “job” again for the first time in about thirty years. I have been working as a volunteer all this time, but it was at my convenience and although there were busy times, it was not a constant or consistent routine.
Now I care for my five-month-old grandson who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at three weeks old. I drive to my daughter’s home by 7 AM each weekday morning and leave at 3:30 PM to beat the traffic home. (She and her husband work full time, rightnow at home but increasingly in their offices.) I feed him, change him, bathe him, play with him, and interact except when he naps. While he naps I help around the house with laundry, dishes, and preparing bottles. Now we are beginning solid food and that will be another adventure!
What does this have to do with my Burning Mouth Syndrome pain?
Stress. We know it makes our chronic neuropathic pain worse. Our pain increases as stress rises, which increases pain, which increases stress…and well, you know the rest.
It’s an automated answering system from Hell, with no readily visible pound sign to hit to get a live person on the line. Or is it?
Stress is coming at us from all sides now, from the worries and complications of the pandemic to the feelings and actions we are experiencing about racial equality and equity. We are not alone in our stress by any means, but chronic pain sufferers can be triggered in more than one way by it.
I admit that I resisted counseling at the beginning of my Burning Mouth Syndrome journey. I had an instinctively negative reaction to the assumption that this pain was “all in my head,” or that therapy could or would help. It also felt suspiciously like I was getting shuffled off into the “menopausal female” box where any aches or pains or issues were part of the incredibly mysterious malady that seemed to be menopause. As a strong and independent female, I rejected this categorization and marginalization and started fighting back.
My husband and I like to travel, and we have always dreamed of going to New Zealand. The timing is right (We have the resources but aren’t too old or infirm to enjoy the activities!) and so we have planned an adventure-filled excursion. We will deal with a 15-hour flight there and back, crossing the International Dateline, and a time zone change beyond what I have ever experienced.
The question arises…How do you stay on top of Burning Mouth Syndrome under these circumstances?
Here’s something that has crept up on me gradually over the years and was greatly masked by the air-conditioned environment I live in. My home is Texas, ya’ll, and so hot summers are the price we pay for moderate winters. It’s expected, and to be frank, if everything wasn’t air-conditioned, I think only the hardiest individuals (along with snakes, scorpions, bugs of many sizes, and lizards) would hang out here much.
Heat and heat indexes (the temperature it really feels like) are what have inched up over the years. Texas fakes you out with the occasional string of 100 degree plus days each summer, and until some source shows you the overall trend over decades, you don’t really get that it is just flat getting hotter! I never enjoyed that aspect of Texas summers (I am a Washington State girl when it comes to temperatures!) but since Burning Mouth Syndrome has become a part of my existence, it is even worse. Going outside for a walk right now is like entering a dryer and breathing oven air for me. The hot wind flares my BMS pain more than anything else I can think of and the flare continues long past when I have retreated into air-conditioning.
Hydration and medicine help, and sometimes I even resort to xylitol discs to moisten my mouth, but often it seems like nothing pushes back that flare until it is ready to retreat. Meanwhile, I throw iced water down like a marathon runner and hope it will end soon.
Does this happen to you? Let me know in the comments!
The BMS-Support website has several articles that deal with ongoing research into the salivary system in Burning Mouth Syndrome sufferers, and although I applaud that scientists and researchers are looking at it, a diagnostic method and treatment option can’t come fast enough.
A friend asked the other day how I was doing. Was the burning any better? Had they found any cures?
I assured her that all was the same. I am so grateful for the efficacy of Aimovig in controlling my migraines, but it has, as expected, done nothing for Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS). The Clonazepam ODT I take twice a day keeps the burning at a level where I can function and only occasionally do I have a flare of a day (or three) where nothing seems to touch the pain level much and staying very hydrated, sleeping and being quiet are the only coping strategies that get me through the day(s).
After we spoke, however, I found myself in a fantasy where I typed the amazing title of a blog post. “Burning Mouth Syndrome Cure is Here!” I was delighted as I daydreamed about a day when we would all descend on our doctors in droves, eager to start the totally fictional therapy that would break us out of the bars of this chronic pain prison. I imagined how gleeful I would be to write that very last post in my “Burning Mouth Journey” as I sent people on to pursue their cure and closed this shop up once and for all. Continue reading →
If you have found this blog, you are probably a Burning Mouth Syndrome sufferer or know someone who is. Perhaps you are someone who only suspects you have BMS and what you have read on the Internet so far is scary, disheartening, and often filled with errors and speculation. Let me set your mind at rest about several things…some will still be disheartening, but that is the reality of this under-diagnosed and often baffling chronic pain.
Burning Mouth Syndrome will not kill you. It is not fatal in itself, but unless people find coping strategies, medicines, and support, it can be as dangerous as any other chronic pain condition. If you don’t get medical treatment and support, chronic pain can lead to depression and even self-harm.
The hallmark of BMS is diffuse burning in the mouth and tongue with no visible symptoms. This means if you have lesions, cracked or geographic tongue, discoloration of the tongue or oral cavity or any other visible symptom…you may be barking up the wrong tree. It is possible to have Burning Mouth Syndrome that is caused by underlying conditions, and you will always do better if you treat those ailments first. Your BMS pain may simply disappear, and wouldn’t that be great? Continue reading →