Causes, symptoms, and treatments for tongue sores
The tongue is known to be the strongest muscle in the human body. A complex muscle, it helps us talk, taste, and swallow. The human tongue is covered with several small nodules known as papillae. These papillae have taste buds, which help us distinguish various flavors of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Sometimes, tongue papillae get enlarged or sore. This causes discomfort that may range from minor to extremely painful or itchy sensations. This condition is commonly called tongue sores. Sores may appear anywhere on the tongue; a sore on the side of the tongue is as discomforting as one at the back or underneath the tongue.
Let’s take a look at what causes tongue sores, explore their symptoms, as well as the available treatment options.
What are the medical conditions that cause tongue sores?
- A deficiency in Vitamin B-12, folic acid, and iron
- A prolonged course of antibiotics
- Certain diseases such as strep throat, anemia, and an overactive thyroid
- Oral thrush caused by a fungus called Candida
- Hormonal changes in women
- Seizures that lead to an involuntary biting of the tongue in epilepsy
How do lifestyle habits affect tongue health?
- Eating spicy or sour foods may cause the tongue papillae to get infected.
- Smoking may lead to the development of white patches on the tongue.
- Poor oral hygiene is also a cause of tongue sores.
- Certain products such as mouthwash and toothpaste have extremely strong ingredients that may lead to tongue sores.
What is a strawberry tongue?
- A strawberry tongue is a type of soreness on the tongue that is marked by an unusually red color of the tongue due to the taste buds turning red in color and large in size.
- This condition occurs due to a deficiency of Vitamin B-12 and folic acid.
- Scarlet fever, which commonly affects children, leads to a red rash and strawberry tongue as part of its symptoms. You should consult a doctor immediately in case you think you have scarlet fever.
What are the most common symptoms of a sore tongue?
Some of the symptoms of a sore tongue that you may look out for are as follows:
- Bumps, inflammation, or a sore on side of the tongue, on the back or throughout the tongue surface.
- Lesions or bumps on the tongue, which are often accompanied by a swelling and a burning sensation.
- White or red patches on the tongue.
- A partial or complete loss of taste in the mouth.
- An inflammation on the tongue, which often leads to fever.
When should I consult a doctor for tongue sores?
- If you have persistent sores that seem to enlarge or new ones that keep developing.
- If your tongue’s swelling and soreness are accompanied by high fever.
- If you face extreme difficulty in swallowing food or water.
- If you have tongue pain that is recurrent and does not go away with painkillers.
- If you are suffering from tongue pain and soreness that persists for more than two weeks.
How are tongue sores diagnosed?
- The doctor will perform a physical examination that includes inspecting the tongue bumps under bright light to check for swellings and white spots.
- A swab test may be done to check for a bacterial infection on the tongue and throat.
- Your doctor will also ask you questions about how long you have had the tongue sores, how difficult you find it to move your tongue, and whether you are experiencing any loss of taste.
What are the treatment options and precautions for tongue sores?
Tongue sores usually need time to heal on their own.
- Some common treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications and in some cases, steroids.
- You can swap your regular toothbrush for a soft bristled one.
- Avoid consuming spicy foods and citrus fruits.
- You must also rinse your mouth frequently with warm water mixed with salt.