Most of us don’t really think about our tongues on a daily basis. They’re one of those body parts that are important but tend to be forgotten… until we eat something too hot. Like other parts of the body, the tongue can show signs of illness or trauma to let us know that something isn’t quite right. Being able to recognize these seven signs associated with your tongue can help you pinpoint what’s wrong.
1. IF YOUR TONGUE IS CRACKED
A “crack” down the middle of your tongue can develop with age. If you notice fissures in your tongue, it’s most likely harmless. Only about 2-5% of the U.S. population has a fissured tongue. It may be genetically inherited. If you notice a fissure that is accompanied by unexplained facial or lip swelling, make an appointment with your doctor. It could be the sign of a rare disease called Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.
2 IF YOUR TONGUE HAS A THICK, CHEESE-LIKE COATING
A thick, white coating on your tongue is a sign of a yeast infection called oral thrush. It appears most commonly in infants and young children, but it can also occur in those who wear dentures, have a weakened immune system or are taking antibiotics. If you experience this, go see your doctor to determine how to treat it.
3. IF YOU HAVE SORES ON YOUR TONGUE
Biting your tongue can cause a sore to develop, or sores that appear on your tongue may be canker sores. The exact cause of most canker sores are unknown, but stress and acidic foods can trigger them and make them worse. If your sores don’t go away within two weeks, make an appointment with your doctor. Sores can also be a sign of oral cancer.
4. IF YOUR TONGUE HAS WAVY EDGES
If the edges of your tongue are scalloped or wavy, it could mean that your tongue is swollen. The swelling causes it to press up against your teeth, creating indentations. It usually occurs as a result of something else going on in your body, such as allergies, a thyroid problem, fever or dehydration. Take a trip to see your doctor to find out what’s causing it.
5. IF YOUR TONGUE IS PINK AND SLIGHTLY BUMPY
Great news: if your tongue is pink and bumpy you have nothing to worry about. The small bumps on the tongueare called papillae. They grip your food to make it easier to eat, and they contain your taste buds, which control your like and dislike of certain foods. They respond to both sweet and sour tastes.
6. IF YOUR TONGUE HAS WHITE PATCHES
White patches that appear on the side or bottom of the tongue may be a sign of leukoplakia, a reaction to a long-standing irritation of the tongue. Constant irritation causes the cells in the affected area to multiply more than usual, resulting in a white patch being formed. It’s not always a health concern on its own, but it could be a starting point for cancer to develop later on. Check with your doctor to make sure it’s not something more serious.
7. IF YOUR TONGUE IS RED AND YOU HAVE A FEVER
If your tongue or your child’s tongue turns a deep shade of red and is accompanied by a high fever, contact a doctor immediately. It may be a sign of scarlet fever — strep throat with a rash — or Kawasaki disease, which affects the blood vessels. Kawasaki disease is a non-contagious autoimmune disease that is seen in children under eight years old. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, take your child to a doctor to make sure it gets treated properly.
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