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Swollen Tongue

What is a Swollen tongue?

A tongue can be called swollen when it is enlarged, bloated, or distended. The tongue is composed of muscles which are capable of contracting and swallowing, and its surface is lined with tastes buds that allow us to taste. Swollen tongue can be brought about by infection, inflammation, allergies, genetic disorders, trauma, cancers, metabolic diseases, etc.


swollen tongue pictures

Swollen Tongue Symptoms

Although swollen tongue per se is not a major issue; however, this can just be a manifestation of some underlying serious medical condition anywhere else in the body.

Common symptoms

  1. Pain in the tongue
  2. Tongue lesion
  3. Difficulty in chewing and swallowing

Allergy symptoms combined with swollen tongue

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Cough (although mild)
  3. Diarrhea (mild)
  4. Vomiting
  5. Sneezes and runny nose

Other symptoms that occur with swollen tongue

  1. Burning sensation
  2. Change in the tongue texture—it becomes smooth
  3. Tongue color change to darker shade
  4. Fever
  5. Generalized edema
  6. Goiter
  7. Headache
  8. Blood in the saliva
  9. Fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, loss of hair, puffy eyes, depression, menstrual abnormalities—symptoms of hypothyroidism
  10. Tongue soreness

Life-threatening symptoms

  1. Cyanosis—bluish discoloration of the lips
  2. Change in the level or alertness and responsiveness—patient becomes unresponsive
  3. Coughing up blood
  4. Difficulty swallowing
  5. Sensation of having a tight throat
  6. Swelling around the eyes and lips
  7. Hives or rashes
  8. Intense feeling of distress
  9. Itchy throat or mouth
  10. Low blood pressure
  11. Nausea and vomiting
  12. Breathing problems such as short, rapid breathing; not breathing; choking

Causes for Swollen Tongue

As mentioned, a swollen tongue is just a symptom of various underlying disease and medical conditions. The following is the list of the common conditions that result to a swollen tongue.

Tongue swelling caused by infection

  1. Herpes simplex virus
  2. Streptococcus infection
  3. Syphilis
  4. Yeast infection

Tongue swelling caused by allergies

  1. Insect bite (bee sting)
  2. Drug allergy (penicillin)
  3. Food allergies
  4. Anaphylactic reactions

Trauma cause of tongue swelling

  1. Biting the tongue
  2. Burning the tongue by hot liquids, hot or spicy food,
  3. Use of dental appliances
  4. Tobacco

Other causes of tongue swelling

  1. Acromegaly (a hormonal disorder)
  2. Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome – a congenital disorder that cause an overgrowth of certain body features such as the tongue
  3. Down syndrome
  4. Hereditary angioedema – this is a serious hereditary disorder that involves swelling of the subcutaneous tissues, including the throat
  5. Hypothyroidism
  6. Lymphangioma
  7. Oral neurofibroma – this is an uncommon benign tumor of the oral cavity
  8. Pellagra- skin lesions caused by a deficiency in vitamin B3 or niacin
  9. Pernicious anemia – insufficient levels of vitamin B12 because of problems in its absorption
  10. Disorders of the pituitary gland – this gland regulates the hormones in the body. Problems in this gland may lead to serious hormonal imbalance
  11. Sarcoma – malignancies in the soft tissues
  12. Tongue cancer

Swollen Tongue Treatment

The best way to treat a swollen tongue is to identify the root cause of the problem (the underlying disease) in order to provide the correct medication and management. A tongue biopsy may be needed in some cases to properly check the condition.

Over-the-counter medications are always available and can help manage the swelling due to food allergies, especially in children. The same medications apply to adults; however, additional medications might be added especially if the food allergy happens alongside other symptoms brought about by other conditions of the body systems.

If the problem in the tongue is caused by a nerve damage, therefore tongue movement is a problem, then therapy can be employed to retrain patients for speech and swallowing.

Anti-inflammatory medications are also helpful to manage inflammation of the tongue.

Remedies for Swollen Tongue

Home care remedies are also worth noting in order to maintain a healthy tongue. This includes the following:

  1. Observe proper oral hygiene all the time to minimize the chances of infecting the tongue.
  2. If one is wearing any dental appliance, make it a habit to see the dentist every time there seems to be a problem with the appliance to avoid trauma to the tongue.
  3. Although antihistamines can heal allergies, it is still very important to take extra precaution on the food we eat so as not to induce allergic attacks.
  4. If the tongue swelling already obstructs the breathing pattern, always seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  5. Place ice ships into the mouth as the cold temperature would somehow lessen the swelling.
  6. Eat soft and semi-solid food to avoid overexhaustion of the tongue in the chewing of food.
  7. Salty and sour food allows the mouth to produce more saliva. If the tongue is swollen, it is quite difficult to swallow saliva, so as much as possible, eat foods that are less likely to produce fluid.

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