Mouth Numbness and Taste Disturbances as Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

These symptoms are rare, but real.

I have long been very aware that people with MS experienced numbness and tingling (parasthesia), since this was one of my first symptoms that led to diagnosis

However, it was only after people started writing to me about one particular unpleasant sensation that I became aware that numbness of the mouth could be one of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). I tried to do some research as to how prevalent this symptom is and what treatment may be available, but the information seems to be limited to just a mention in articles that this may occur.

When starting with looking at causes of mouth numbness, MS does not even get a mention, with diagnoses focusing on oral cancer or poisoning with chemicals or certain types of shellfish.

Seemingly just as rare is diminished sense of taste (hypogeusia) or loss of taste (ageusia) in people with MS. In trying to research these symptoms, all I could find were a couple of case studies of individual patients with these disorders linked to MS.

On the positive side, all reports seem to indicate that these are transient symptoms, meaning they come and go, rather than being present all of the time.

Over the years, many people have communicated with me about different symptoms, and I have pulled together what they had to say about mouth numbness or change in taste sensations:

  • I have been having mouth numbness off and on for the last couple of months. It sometimes feels like I ate something a little too hot even though I haven’t. I also have a definite preference of which side of my mouth I hold food and beverages on for the full taste effect. I’m wondering if eventually I won’t be able to taste.
  • Mouth numbness is horrid. About ten years ago I couldn’t feel anything at all on the right side of my mouth and my tongue “felt” swollen. I lived on baked potatoes, cabbage, tinned tuna and orange juice for a couple of months because eating was such an awful experience. That’s not a diet I’d recommend long term!
  • I’ve found that eating dark green leafy vegetables every single day, without fail, helps to reduce my symptoms [of mouth numbness]. Missing a day will set my symptoms back by a week, so I make sure I eat the equivalent of two large leaves of lightly cooked spring greens daily – even if it means I’m eating them at midnight. (I cut the stalks out because supposedly they contain a chemical that can make you sleepy, which might not go too well with fatigue.)
  • I’ve been diagnosed with MS for 22 years. Fifteen years ago I had a 24-hour period when everything tasted bitter. My boss had invited us out for a steak dinner that night and I couldn’t eat it (which is not typical for me). In addition, I do have tremors of my tongue and lower lip at times.
  • I was diagnosed with MS 23 years ago. I lost my sense of taste for few days in 1991, everything tasted horrible at that time.
  • It really helps to know that someone else has experienced some of these symptoms in the mouth—docs just look at me like I am daft when I tell them about the fact that my mouth and tongue “burns.” This happens especially late in the day and/or when I am exhausted or hot. For the past 2 years, I usually carry a cup of ice and eat lots of ice cream. But again, it is really hard to “whine” about this very real and annoying symptom to people, because it can’t be seen and just seems well, weird.

    Bottom Line: If you have MS and are experiencing mouth numbness or things taste different to you, you can at least include MS as one of the possible causes. Consider yourself lucky if your neurologist has even heard of this as a symptom of MS, as it is so rare. Unfortunately, it seems as if there is very little treatment for these problems, other than the ideas offered above.

    One thing to note is that you should be very careful when chewing when you are experiencing numbness in your mouth. Find food that is soft and that does not present a choking hazard if it is not fully chewed, especially if you have difficulty swallowing (another symptom of MS).

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