Tongue problems

30 Apr Tongue problems

Tongue problems

You use your tongue constantly, it can be frustrating and uncomfortable when you experience tongue problems, including discoloration and soreness. There are a variety of causes for a number of common tongue symptoms. Fortunately, the majority of tongue problems are not serious and most can be resolved quickly.

In some instances, though, a discolored or painful tongue can indicate more serious conditions, including vitamin deficiencies, AIDS, or oral cancer. For this reason, it is important to seek medical advice if you have any ongoing problems with your tongue.

Numerous problems can affect your tongue, such as:

  • Pain
  • changes in taste
  • changes in color
  • changes in texture
  • sores
  • swelling

Symptoms of tongue problems

Possible symptoms that you may experience related to your tongue include:

  • a partial or complete loss of taste or changes in your ability to taste sour, salty, bitter, or sweet flavors
  • difficulty moving your tongue
  • white or red patches, which are often painful
  • a furry or hairy appearance of the tongue
  • a change from the normal color of your tongue or patches of color that are white, bright pink, black, or brown
  • pain either all over the tongue or only in certain spots
  • a burning sensation either all over the tongue or only in certain spots

Causes of a burning sensation on the tongue

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.

Causes of tongue pain

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.

Causes of tongue swelling

A swollen tongue may be a symptom of a disease or medical condition, such as:

  • Down syndrome
  • tongue cancer
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • an overactive thyroid
  • leukemia
  • strep throat
  • anemia

When to see a doctor

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:

  • larger sores than you’ve previously had
  • recurring or frequent sores
  • recurring or frequent pain
  • a persistent problem lasting greater than two weeks
  • tongue pain that doesn’t improve with over-the-counter pain (OTC) medications or self-care measures
  • tongue problems with a high fever
  • extreme difficulty eating or drinking

Problems Moving the Tongue

Tongue movement problems are most often caused by nerve damage. Rarely, problems moving the tongue may also be caused by a disorder where the band of tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short. This is called ankyloglossia.

Tongue movement disorders may result in:

Breastfeeding problems in newborns

Difficulty moving food during chewing and swallowing

Speech problems


Hairy Tongue

Hairy tongue is a harmless condition in which the tongue looks hairy or furry. The disorder usually goes away with antibiotics.

Black Tongue

Sometimes the upper surface of the tongue turns black or brown in color. This is an unsightly condition but it is not harmful.

Color Changes

Color changes may occur when the tongue becomes inflamed (glossitis). Papillae (bumps on the tongue) are lost, causing the tongue to appear smooth. Geographic tongue is a patchy form of glossitis where the location of inflammation and the appearance of the tongue change from day to day.

The information contained on this Website should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your health care provider. There may be variations in treatment that your health care provider may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.