Disfiguring Facial Disease
Blamed On Chemicals
In Carbonated Drinks
Fizzy drink additives may be to blame for the world's worst epidemic of a disfiguring facial disease which has struck in the west of Scotland, researchers claim.
Dental experts believe an allergic reaction to carbonated drinks could be the cause of the outbreak of the incurable illness oral Crohn's Disease, which causes grotesquely swollen lips.
Crohn's Disease normally attacks the bowel but 500 Scots, most of them children, have developed an oral form of the disease - 88% of them live on the west coast of Scotland.
This compares with just 40 cases of oral Crohn's Disease in the whole of the United States.
Allergic reaction
Researchers at Glasgow Dental Hospital who have been studying the disease, believe it may be sparked by an allergic reaction to preservatives found in fizzy drinks as well as bacteria found in milk.
An extensive study into the epidemic has been conducted and experts now say that people living in the West of Scotland have a genetic predisposition to developing the allergic reaction with leads to the oral disease.
The vast majority of those in the study were found to have a marked sensitivity to the additives and preservatives used in fizzy drinks.
Oral Crohn's disease causes swelling of the lips and facial tissue, a characteristic inflammation of the gums and a cobblestone texture on the inside of the mouth.
The symptoms are caused by an excess of fluid building up in the tissues.
Psychological damage
Recent studies also show that children suffer bullying and psychological damage as a result of their disfigurement.
Professor David Wray, professor of oral medicine at the dental hospital, said symptoms could be controlled by following a strict diet.
He said: "Fizzy drinks do not cause the disease, the individual must have an underlying predisposition. But if they are allergic, and they are then exposed to the allergen their lips just blow up.
"If they can stick to a strict diet their appearance will dramatically improve. Although an expert could still detect subtle changes to all intents they could make a complete recovery."
Oral Crohn's Disease, officially known as orofacial granulomatosis, was first discovered in 1969 although it was only found in patients who also suffered from the more common Crohn's Disease of the gut.
However, the Glasgow scientists have found that only 80 of their 440 patients have the disease in both the gut and the mouth.