Saturday, August 23, 2014

Table of Contents

Definition

Tongue problems include pain, swelling, or a change in how the tongue looks.


Alternative Names

Dark tongue; Burning tongue syndrome


Considerations

The tongue is mainly made up of muscles. It is covered with a mucus membrane. Small bumps (papillae) cover the upper surface of the tongue.

  • Between the papillae are the taste buds, which allow you to taste.
  • The tongue moves food to help you chew and swallow.
  • The tongue also helps you form words.

There are many different reasons for changes in the tongue's function and appearance.

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 difficulties

TASTE PROBLEMS

Taste problems can be caused by damage to the taste buds, nerve problems, side effects of medications, an infection, or other condition. The tongue normally senses sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes. Other "tastes" are actually a function of the sense of smell.

INCREASED SIZE OF THE TONGUE

Tongue swelling occurs with:

  • Acromegaly
  • Amyloidosis
  • Down syndrome
  • Myxedema
  • Rhabdomyoma

The tongue may get wider in persons who have no teeth and do not wear dentures.

Sudden swelling of the tongue can happen due to an allergic reaction or a side effect of medications.

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.

HAIRY TONGUE

  • < Page
  • 1 2
  • >

Review Date: 03/05/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)