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Numerous problems can affect your tongue, such as:
These problems often aren’t serious. However, sometimes your symptoms might occur due to an underlying condition that requires medical treatment.
You can prevent many tongue problems by practicing good oral hygiene. If you are already experiencing tongue problems, some simple home remedies may help relieve your symptoms.
Possible symptoms that you may experience related to your tongue include:
The specific symptoms you’re experiencing will help your doctor identify the cause of your tongue problem.
A burning sensation on the tongue may occur in women who are postmenopausal. It can also occur due to exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke.
A white tongue is usually a result of smoking, drinking alcohol or poor oral hygiene. White lines or bumps may be an inflammation called oral lichen planus. People think this occurs due to an abnormal immune response that may occur from an underlying condition, such as hepatitis C or allergies.
If your tongue appears to be furry or hairy, it’s most likely caused by a course of antibiotics. Radiation to the head or neck can also lead to this symptom. It can also develop if you consume too much of an irritating substance, such as coffee or mouthwash, or if you smoke.
Tongue pain usually occurs due to an injury or infection. If you bite your tongue, you may develop a sore that can last for days and be very painful. A minor infection on the tongue isn’t uncommon, and it can cause pain and irritation. Inflamed papillae, or taste buds, are small, painful bumps that appear after an injury from a bite or irritation from hot foods.
A canker sore is another common cause of pain on or under the tongue. This is a small, white or yellow sore that can occur for no apparent reason. Canker sores, unlike cold sores, don’t occur due to the herpes virus. Some possible causes are mouth injuries, abrasive ingredients in toothpastes or mouthwashes, food allergies or nutritional deficiencies. In many cases, the cause of a canker sore is unknown and referred to as an aphthous ulcer. These sores usually go away without any treatment.
Neuralgia can also be a source of tongue pain. This is a very severe pain that occurs along a damaged nerve. Neuralgia occurs for no obvious reason, or it can occur due to:
A swollen tongue may be a symptom of a disease or medical condition, such as:
When the tongue swells very suddenly, the likely reason is an allergic reaction. This can result in difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing due to tongue swelling is a medical emergency. If this occurs, you should get medical help right away.
You should make an appointment to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment if your tongue problem is severe, unexplained, or persists for several days with no signs of improvement
You should also see your doctor if you have:
During your appointment, your doctor will thoroughly examine your tongue and ask you several questions about your tongue and your symptoms. They’ll want to know:
If your doctor isn’t able to make a diagnosis based on the exam and the answers to your questions, they may order some tests. Most likely, your doctor will want to take a sample of blood to test for or rule out various disorders that could be causing your tongue issues. Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor will recommend treatments for your specific problem.
You can prevent or relieve some tongue problems by practicing good dental hygiene. Brush and floss regularly, and see your dentist for routine checkups and cleanings.
If you have a canker sore or a sore that occurs due to a mouth injury, you should do the following:
Call your doctor if you don’t see any improvement in the next two to three weeks.
Written by: Mary Ellen Ellis
Medically reviewed on: May 19, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
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