Mucositis is a condition in which the inside of your mouth is swollen and feels as if you had just consumed en total that hot pepper. It often occurs in cancer sufferers, especially those who have head and neck cancers. Radiation and chemotherapy target the cancer cells, but with some nasty side effects including mucositis.

Previous treatments for this disease have included pain medications, which help somewhat with the pain, but can make you dizzy, tired and constipated. So not only is your mouth killing you, but now you can add to this misery a bloated, constipated feeling. Antiinflammatories such as Ibuprofen do take the edge off, but you’re still left with some pretty significant mouth discomfort. A local anesthetic such as Lidocaine can be mixed into a solution and this mixture gargled, especially before meals. While the Lidocaine doesn’t take all the pain away, it certainly will help.

Along comes the latest and perhaps greatest: Doxepin, up until recently marketed as an antidepressant and chronic pain. A recent study found that gargling with a Doxepin solution worked better than placebo in reducing pain.  The side effects were relatively minor and included some burning and fatigue. Why fatigue?  The drug, which is known to  cause drowsiness,  is adsorbed from  the mouth.

Don’t expect to see this marketed anytime soon.  More studies need to be done  and the medication should be compared against other treatments such as Lidocaine, before  the FDA will approve it for mucositis treatment. By the way, Doxepin solution might also be found to be useful for other painful mouth conditions such as canker sores or even herpes.

Until then, those with mucositis should try the other medications mentioned above. Consider asking your doctor to prescribe you 25 milligram dose of Doxepin, which if mixed with a small amount of water (5 ml), would be the same solution as used in the study. It is unlikely to cause serious reactions, but you should consult with your oncologist first.