” Dr. Courey – My tongue hurts! It hurts to eat, drink , even talking hurts!” These are unfortunate symptoms of glossitis.
It’s not a canker sore or a new piercing – a tender feeling tongue
with a burning sensation and a red color, swollen with a smooth
appearance indicates glossitis – inflammation of the tongue. The causes
of an inflamed tongue may stem from local factors like contact with
irritants – tobacco, alcohol, spices, hot food and liquids. Dental
conditions can also contribute to an inflamed tongue, such as chipped
or rough tooth surfaces. Viral infections like herpes simplex, canker
sores and even allergic reactions – food, toothpaste, mouthwash – can
all contribute to glossitis as well!
An inflammation of the tongue (glossitis)
typically leads to a change in the appearance of the tongue surface.
Protrusion projections on the tongue’s surface layer (called papillae)
may be lost, losing the classic bumped appearance, making the tongue
appear completely smooth. Red or irregular patches of pale skin is
called geographic tongue, and usually has no symptom but is a chronic
condition that does not go away. An overly sensitive tongue might lead
to difficulty speaking or swallowing. In some cases, glossitis may
result in severe tongue swelling which can impede the throat, making it
very difficult to breathe, a medical emergency that would require immediate attention.
Though not widely known, the tongue is a great indicator of our
body’s general health. Experienced practitioners in alternative
medicine can often diagnose an individual’s physical condition by just
looking at a patient’s tongue! An inflamed tongue can be associated
with a disease, disorder or condition like anxiety, depression,
hypothyroidism, hormonal changes, immune system alterations, drugs
reactions, leukemia,a vitamin deficiency in folic acid, B12 and iron,
or even cancer.
So what are the treatments of glossitis? We do need to differentiate
the cause of the inflammation of the tongue first.As previously
mentioned, a vitamin deficiency such as iron deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia and other B-vitamin deficiencies are the most common reasons for a painful tongue. Oral lichen planus, erythema multiforme, aphthous ulcer, pemphigus vulgaris, syphilis,
and others can also be culprits of causing glossitis. Irritants such as
alcohol, tobacco and spicy foods and even certain medication may also
cause temporary glossitis.
The important thing to remember with an inflamed or burning tongue
is that reversing the inflammation is the primary treatment goal – if
the inflammation is treated, other side effects (like burning
sensations, redness etc) will almost always dissipate. Take both
vitamin C and vitamin B complex every day, as these are the most common
vitamin deficiencies associated with a painful tongue.
Cutting back on bad daily habits (like drinking and
smoking),watching your diet for possible allergic reactions and better
managing your daily stress will also aid in healing your tongue back to
a healthy and normally functioning condition. If the symptoms of a
painful tongue persist after two to three weeks of home self
management, visit your health care professional to rule out any other
possible medical conditions.