Botox may ease 'burning mouth' syndrome

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Botox, long used to smooth wrinkles, may come to the rescue for people with a painful condition called burning mouth syndrome.

A new study finds that Botox (botulinum toxin) "might be an effective, long-lasting, and safe treatment" for the disorder, says a team of Italian researchers.

Constant pain every day

The study appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to the US National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, burning mouth syndrome is a chronic condition characterised by burning pain in the tongue, and sometimes the lips or roof of the mouth.

This pain "can last for months or years," the institute says. "Some people feel constant pain every day. For others, pain increases throughout the day. For many people, the pain is reduced when eating or drinking."

According to the institute, medical conditions that can cause burning mouth syndrome include:

  • Allergies
  • Thyroid issues
  • Drug side effects
  • Damage to nerves that control pain and taste

What is Botox?

Botox is a purified polypeptide that has the ability to relax the injected muscle by blocking the nerve receptors (neuro-muscular junction) that innervate the muscle. Botox essentially  prevents muscle contraction

Now, a team led by Dr Domenico Restivo, of Garibaldi Hospital in Catania, says Botox might help ease the condition.

The small study involved three women and one man, all in their 60s or 70s. All had endured burning mouth syndrome on their tongue and lower lip for at least six months.

Each patient received a total dose of 16 Botox injections into the tongue and lower lip.

No side effects

"In all patients, pain disappeared within 48 hours," Restivo's group reported. "The beneficial effects lasted up to 16 weeks after injection in all but one patient, in whom they lasted up to 20 weeks."

In a separate experiment, two additional patients received "sham" treatments – saline injections – and saw no improvement in their symptoms, effectively ruling out a "placebo" effect, the researchers said.

No side effects from the treatment were noted, the team added.

Restivo's team said the positive results from this small pilot study are encouraging. "We believe that these findings should lead to a [larger] randomised trial," they concluded.

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