Saw something funky at the mirror lately? From red bumps to white spots, you will be surprised at the array of diseases that can show up on your tongue. Here’s a list of what you need to know about tongue pain and tongue-related diseases.

1. What you see: Strawberry-red tongue

What it could mean: You might be lacking in vitamins. A glossy red tongue is an indication that your body is deficient in Vitamin B12 or iron. Iron and Vitamin B12 are what’s needed for the papillae in your mouth to mature. If you are somewhat lacking in those vitamins mentioned, you will lose those papillae, which will result to your tongue looking very smooth and glossy. In severe cases, this type of ‘balding may cause you to feel pain especially when eating spicy foods or drinking hot liquids. Vegetarians are
especially prone to Vitamin B12 deficiency, since most of these are found in meats. If you are a vegetarian and you’ve noticed that your tongue has a strawberry red color, consult your doctor and ask about taking supplements.

2. What you see: Black or Brown Fuzz

What it could mean: Simple, you might be severely lacking in the oral hygiene department. A tongue that’s covered in dark hairs sure looks nasty, but physicians agree that it should not be a cause for major concern. The tongue contains papillae—small bumps at the tongue’s surface. These normally gets worn down by drinking and chewing, but there are times that they can become overgrown which makes them more prone to harbouring bacteria or become discoloured due to food intake. This can cause someone
to have bad breath or to experience some taste abnormalities. Typically, a black, hairy tongue can be a result of smoking, poor dental care, or drinking dark coffees or teas. And most of the time eliminating the offending cause like smoking or just brushing the tongue more frequently can resolve the problem.

3. What you see: Cottage-cheese white

What it could mean: You possibly have a yeast infection. That seemingly lumpy and white-coated tongue could be thrush, an oral yeast infection brought forth by the proliferation of candida. This condition is oftentimes linked to the use of antibiotics. The tongue is a natural home to number of bacteria and yeast and once you have started taking antibitiotics that selectively kills off bacteria, it can allow the propagation of more yeast. Thrush can affect your sense of taste and can also be a source of pain and discomfort. It can also occur to those people with weakened immune systems.

4. What you see: Wrinkles in your tongue

What it could mean: You are getting older and hard as it may seem to believe, yes, your tongue can show signs of aging. Cracks and fissures in the tongue can be natural occurrences and are typically harmless; however, problems will start to arise if these cracks get infected due to poor oral hygiene. Often the infection can be treated with anti-fungal topical medications. Some dental appliances like dentures can also cause indentations on the tongue. So when this happens, make sure that your dentures fit well and you are practicing good oral health.

5. What you see: Small patches of white

What it could mean: It means that something could be irritating your tongue. Leukoplakia or painless white patches are normally caused by an excess growth of cells. This often happens to people who smoke, and has a 5-17% of developing into something cancerous. If you’re a smoker, this is a telltale sign that you’re developing some pre-cancer lesions. If you’re not a smoker and you have these lesions, then it could be a result of your tooth rubbing incessantly to your tongue. If it somehow does not go away on its own in a week or two, make sure that you consult a doctor about it.

6. What you see: Persistent red lesions

What it could mean: You may have signs of tongue cancer. Not to be confused with a cancer sore which gets resolved on its own within a week or two, red lesions or red tongue patches that don’t go away could indicate a more serious matter. So you need to get checked immediately by a physician.

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