Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beware of that nut!

One of our most innocent extra culinary activities is to chew a few pieces of betel nut after meals. But some of us may be overdoing it. Because al lot of young people are falling prey to a most troublesome affliction of the mouth. It is called Oral submucous fibrosis.

We used to see the condition occasionally in India when we were in medical college. But I was surprised by the relatively common occurrence of this disease in Maldives. Simply put, the normal mucosa of the mouth, especially the soft palate area gets fibrosed and loses its elasticity. Many young people come to consult us for a minor complaint of burning sensation in the throat and on examination we are confronted with quite a severe case of oral submucous fibrosis. The problem with this condition is that it is basically incurable, irreversible and it is progressive. As the condition gets worse, the palate gets more and more fibrosed causing less and less mouth opening till some unfortunate souls can open their mouth just enough to get a single finger in! It is probably one of the most distressing conditions that can affect the mouth. Eating and cleaning the mouth will be hampered. Treatment? Well, we are as desperate as the patient. Oral steroid applications and injections and such like measure give very little relief. Maxillofacial surgeons attempt dividing the fibrous bands in severe cases with restricted mouth opening. Once the condition sets in, it follows its insidious course. So next time you put in that piece of areca nut, think twice. Oral submucous fibrosis is certainly one condition where prevention will be better than the ‘cure’ (if there is any!)

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