oral pain

What is oral mucositis

Oral mucositis is an inflammatory condition in the mouth. It is a frequent and unpleasant side effect of radiation and chemotherapy. The condition causes redness, mouth sores and ulcers that can be very painful, making it difficult to eat, drink and speak. Oral mucositis can lead to several problems, including nutritional deficiencies or hospitalisation as a result of an inability to eat and an increased risk of infection due to open sores in the mouth. It can even interfere with your cancer treatment (Ref. 10, 11).

What causes oral mucositis

Chemo and radiation therapy, the two most common cancer treatments, are designed to destroy abnormal cells, but can also affect healthy cells, like those in your mouth (Ref. 12). That’s why the majority of cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation therapy will experience at least some degree of oral mucositis.

Symptoms of oral mucositis

The symptoms of oral mucositis usually appear a few days after starting chemotherapy and towards 2nd and 3rd week of radiotherapy. They can vary in severity and progress very quickly. Some people say it feels like “massive sunburn” inside their mouth. If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, inform your doctor or nurse immediately:

  • Burning sensation in your mouth
  • Swelling in your mouth or on your tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty drinking or eating, reduced sense of taste
  • Changes to the inside lining of your mouth – redness, white patches, blisters or ulcers
  • Trouble sleeping due to oral pain
  • Fever or other signs of infection

What are the consequences of OM?

Oral mucositis can have serious consequences and can significantly affect your cancer treatment, quality of life and your physical and emotional well-being. It is important not to overlook the signs of mucositis, as the treatment should start as soon as possible in order to avoid possible complications.

  • Cause severe oral pain
  • Make eating and drinking a series challenge, which can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, which in turn can lead to intravenous feeding
  • Increase the risk of infections
  • Contribute to delay or interruption of your cancer therapy
  • Necessitate an increase in the use of antibiotics and narcotics
  • Lead to hospitalisation
  • Increase the overall cost of treatment

Unfortunately, you may not be able to prevent mucositis, but there are steps you can take to help you to relieve oral pain.

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