5 Common Tongue Problems

5 Common Tongue Problems

The tongue is hailed as the strongest muscle in the body and is an important sensory organ. Just like any other part of the body; the tongue can be the site for various health issues which can result in major or minor discomfort and the inability to taste food. Listed below are 5 common tongue problems, which afflict the tongue. Read further to know more.

5 Common Tongue Problems

#1. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia is one of a common problem affecting the tongue. Leukoplakia is characterized by the appearance of white patches in the mouth and on the tongue brought on by the excessive growth of cells. Leukoplakia isn’t a life threatening tongue problem as such, but doctors often consider the appearance of Leukoplakia as a precursor to cancer, which is a serious condition. Leukoplakia is most common with people who use tobacco products and this tongue problem should not be ignored.

#2. Oral Thrush

Known as candidiasis in medical circles; this tongue problem is a common yeast infection that affects the mouth and is most visibly prominent on the tongue. Oral thrush is characterized by yeast growth on the tongue and the mouth, which can be identified by its white patchy appearance that is similar to cottage cheese in consistency.

Infants and the elderly are more commonly affected by this tongue problem; however, oral thrush is also common in people with a weakened immune system, people with diabetes, those on prolonged antibiotic medications and those that are dependent on inhaled steroids for lung problems or asthma. Oral thrush can affect the ability to taste food and kills good bacteria in the mouth. Medications for oral thrush are widely available. Also, eating yogurt with its live cultures is known to help this tongue problem.

#3. Oral Lichen Planus

Characterized by the appearance of raised lines on the tongue which are visibly similar to lace fabric; Oral Lichen Planus is yet another common problem that afflicts the tongue. The root cause for this tongue problem is unknown. Medication isn’t required for this tongue problem, however, increased dental hygiene is advised. Giving up on tobacco products and smoking is also a good idea. The problem with Oral Lichen Planus is evidently aesthetic more than anything else and this common tongue ailment can often be a cause of embarrassment for the patient.

#4. Abnormally Red Tongue

Commonly referred to as a strawberry red tongue; this tongue problem is defined by an abnormally red appearance of the tongue almost similar to the color of a strawberry. This common tongue problem is often accompanied by red splotches that make the tongue appear even more like a strawberry. There are three primary causes for an overtly red tongue which are as discussed below. All of these can be labeled as 3 different conditions that affect the tongue but is generally characterized as one commonly experienced problem.

  • Benign Migratory Glossitis: Characterized by reddish spots that appear on the surface of the tongue; Benign Migratory Glossitis is also known as geographic tongue because of the map like appearance of these spots. These spots can often shift across the surface of the tongue and are often surrounded by a white border. Generally pain or discomfort is absent; however, if the spots fail to disappear over a course of 2 weeks, then consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis to rule out any other cause for the unusual appearance of the tongue. In case of discomfort or pain; topical medications can be prescribed.
  • Scarlet Fever: Scarlet Fever results in a strawberry red tongue and this tongue problem is often treated with a course of antibiotics. With treatment and time; the symptoms of scarlet fever disappear and the tongue goes back to its normal color.
  • Kawasaki Syndrome: Kawasaki Syndrome can also result in an unusually red tongue. Kawasaki syndrome mostly affects toddlers and infants and has multiple symptoms like high fever, swelling of hands and feet and an unusually red tongue.

#5. Black Hairy Tongue

It difficult to imagine this tongue problem, but it is not entirely uncommon for people to develop a black hairy tongue. Papillae or the small bumps present on the surface of the tongue generally grow over a lifetime. Sometimes these papillae grow excessively long and aren’t sufficiently worn down by eating and other oral activities. Excessively long papillae can take on the appearance of long hairs and result in a tongue condition commonly known as a hairy black tongue. This problem isn’t accompanied by pain or discomfort and once again; this tongue issue is more about aesthetics than being a serious medical threat.

In conclusion; one can develop a wide range of medical ailments on the surface of the tongue. The five tongue problems listed above are just prominent examples and most of these issues can be resolved over time with the help of a doctor and appropriate medications.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 30, 2019

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