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What your tongue tells you about your health

Wednesday, September 13th 2017. | Tongue

In a routine medical check up the doctor always asks us to stick our tongue out so that he can examine it. That is because the state of the tongue can reveal many health problems in the body. As a normal routine we too should stick out your tongue and look at it in the mirror after brushing everyday.


A normal healthy tongue is pink in colour. It has a light white tongue coating on it. It is is proportionate in size to the mouth. It is covered with small nodules (papillae). Look out for
any change in shape, colour, coating and texture of your tongue.Tongue

If your tongue has a white coating or white spots it could be oral thrush. This is a yeast infection which develops in infants and the elderly. It is common in diabetics, in people with a weak immune system, in those who are taking steroids or after taking antibiotics.

White patches or leukoplakia on the tongue develop when the tongue is constantly irritated by a broken tooth or ill-fitting dentures. It is also caused by using tobacco. Leukoplakia is a precancerous condition. If the irritant is removed the patches tend to resolve on their own.

A hairy leukoplakia, occurs in people with weakened immune systems due to illnesses like HIV or the Epstein-Barr virus. The hair will be more like fuzz. It will be accompanied by white lesions on the side of the tongue.

If your tongue is red it could be a sign of deficiency of folic acid and vitamin B-12. It can also occur during a fever.

A pale tongue is the most common sign of anaemia or weakness in the body. A purple tongue is a sign that the blood circulation is being blocked perhaps becauseWhich Tongue are you of injury, inflammation or infection.

A map-like appearance of reddish spots on the surface of the tongue with patches a white border around them is called a geographical tongue. This may shift from one part of the tongue to another. It is usually harmless.

A strawberry-like tongue, that is red and bumpy with high fever develops in people with scarlet fever. This needs to be treated with anti-biotics. A similar appearance along with high fever however can indicate a more serious condition called Kawasaki disease. It usually affects children under the age of 5. It needs immediate medical attention.

If your tongue is black and hairy it means you are not practising good oral hygiene. The appearance is caused by papillae on the tongue which grow too long and harbour bacteria. It is not a serious condition. Diabetics, people taking antibiotics and those on chemotherapy can also develop a black hairy tongue.

A thick coating on the tongue reflects poor health and some serious conditions. It also indicates digestive problems. A thick white coating occurs in Candida infection. A very thin or absent tongue coating can occur in dehydration or a severe taxing of the body. A yellow coating signals fever or infection in the body. A grey or black coating indicates a serious health condition.

An enlarged tongue is called Macroglossia. Some genetic disorder may be the reason for this condition. An enlarged, sometimes protruding tongue, in children, may be a sign of hypothyroidism.

A very thin tongue could indicate dehydration. It could also be a sign of a chronic condition such as TB that has left the body severely weakened. A raised bump could be a sign of bacterial or viral infection or of an allergic reaction to a food or medication.

Sores or bumps on the tongue can develop by accidentally biting your tongue, scalding it with a too hot drink, or even because of smoking. This is very painful till healing occurs.

Mouth ulcers or canker sores are very common. They develop mostly due to stress and are painful. They normally heal in a week or two. A lump or sore on the tongue that doesn’t go away within two weeks could be an indication of oral cancer especially if they are painless.

Any burning, intense pain, loss of sensation, or inability to move the tongue properly should be looked at by a doctor as soon as possible.

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