Your tongue is the key factor in determining many conditions and the overall health of the body. A thorough tongue checkup can reveal if you are healthy or not.
A healthy and normal tongue is pinkish-red, moist, and with a rough surface. Any discomfort such as pain, burning, stinging sensation, burning, swelling or numbness may be a cause of concern. A tongue disease may possibly be a symptom of some severe and long-term illness and signals us that something is awry.
Some of the common problems related to tongue include:
- Increase in size or swelling
- Bumps and pain
- Disability to taste food
- Difficulty in movement
- Changes in texture
These tongue problems can be harmless and may occur due to infections, stress, medications and even aging. But some other problems can be caused due to nerve damage, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and hormonal changes and need immediate doctor’s consultation.
You can perform a simple tongue test yourself, just stick out your tongue in front of the mirror and look out for any unusual changes. Below is a detailed explanation of what all your tongue indicates about your health.
If your tongue has white patches
If you see white patches on your tongue it could be an indication of:
- Oral thrush: Also called candidiasis, oral thrush is a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth. The white patches are often the consistency of cottage cheese and can be scraped away. Oral thrush typically affects infants and the elderly especially those with the weak immune system. It also affects people with autoimmune diseases, people with uncontrolled diabetes and chemotherapy patients. Oral thrush can cause pain and taste disturbances.
- Leukoplakia: If your tongue has hard, flat, white patches that cannot be scraped off, it could be leukoplakia. It can develop when the tongue has been irritated. The use of tobacco products is the most common factor that contributes to leukoplakia. Although leukoplakia is usually not harmful it can be a precursor to cancer. So, if you see any white patches, go to your doctor for evaluation.
- Oral Lichen Planus: It is a chronic inflammatory condition caused by an autoimmune response. If you see a network of raised white lace-like patterns on your tongue, it could be an oral lichen planus. It usually resolves on its own, but if the condition persists consult your doctor.
If your tongue is Bright Red
- Vitamin deficiency: If your tongue has a reddish appearance, it can be due to Folic acid and vitamin B-12 deficiencies.
- Scarlet fever: If you have a high fever and your tongue has a strawberry-like(red and bumpy) appearance, you could be suffering from scarlet fever. You need to check with your doctor and complete a course of antibiotics to treat scarlet fever.
- Kawasaki disease: A strawberry-red tongue could also be a sign of Kawasaki disease, a rare but serious condition that inflames blood vessels all over the body. It is accompanied by high fever and affects children under the age of 5 years. Kawasaki syndrome demands demand immediate medical evaluation.
Black and hairy tongue
A tongue that appears black and covered in dark hair is an indication of poor oral hygiene or bad tongue health. The papilla is small bumps on the surface of our tongue, which grows throughout the lifetime and are washed out by chewing or drinking. But, in some people, they grow excessively long making them more likely to nurture bacteria. This condition is usually uncommon and is not serious.
Swelling or increased size of the tongue
Referred to as macroglossia, swelling or enlargement of the tongue can be a result of allergies, medication, an injury or an underlying medical condition such as amyloidosis. An injury from hot food or liquid or simply biting the tongue can also cause the irritation and swelling of the tongue.
Bumpy or sore tongue
If you have painful bumps and sores on your tongue. They can be due to:
- Trauma: We sometimes accidentally bite our tongue while chewing food or when we eat something hot, it can lead to a sore tongue. Damage takes its own time to heal. Grinding and clenching of teeth can also cause injuries and pain.
- Smoking: Smoking causes irritation of the tongue and can make it sore and painful
- Canker sores: These are the small bumps also called mouth ulcers that come and go on their own. They mostly occur under the tongue and normally heal within a week or two.
- Oral cancer: If you have a lump or sore on your tongue that does not resolve itself within two weeks, it could be an indication of oral cancer. Get it checked immediately. Most oral cancers do not cancer do not cause any pain in the early stage, so do not ignore it.
It is important to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and tongue on a daily basis. Check for any discoloration, bumps, sores or pain and consult your doctor for a diagnosis. He would be able to determine the exact cause of your tongue problem.