When people are sick, they often get a warning from the symptoms that they are experiencing. Most people can figure out what is wrong with them by their symptoms, like having the flu or a cold. While sometimes a symptom is a side effect of another health issue, other times the symptom itself is the problem. Because of this, it is important to pay attention to your body when things change.
The appearance of your tongue is one thing that you may not realize you should be paying attention to. Knowing what to look for when it comes to changes in your tongue can help you to make important lifestyle choices that will lead to better health.
Your tongue is a muscle that is covered with tissue called mucosa. Aside from needing your tongue for speech, it is also critical for chewing, tasting, and swallowing food. When you experience certain health conditions, you may find that you taste things differently. Your tongue has many nerves transmitting signals to your brain.
When it is healthy, your tongue is covered with pink tissue and small bumps, which is where your taste buds live. Look at your tongue in the mirror. If you ever notice any deviations from its normal appearance, that means it may be time to change some things about your health.
Micronutrient deficiencies can lead to negative health consequences, and changes to your tongue may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. For example, if your tongue is bright red, smooth, and swollen, it may be a sign that you have an iron, folate, or vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 and iron are needed to create the normal bumps on the tongue. If you are deficient in these, you lose those bumps, making your tongue appear very smooth.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to sensory changes on your tongue because the vitamin is an important part of the healthy neurological function of your taste buds. This specific condition is more often seen in older women who experience altered taste sensation and dry mouth.
A bright red, swollen tongue can also be an indication of a condition called Kawasaki disease, which is most commonly seen in children under 5, and also includes a high fever. Symptoms of this disease are caused by inflammation of arteries throughout the body.
Poor Oral Hygiene
The bumps on your tongue grow throughout your life. These bumps (also refereed to as papilla) are worn down when you eat and drink. However, if they become overgrown, they create an area for fungus and bacterial growth. This may happen after a course of antibiotics or to those suffering from diabetes or have been receiving chemotherapy. However, in some cases it is caused by poor oral hygiene and can occur due to lifestyle choices like smoking.
Canker sores may occur on the tongue when you're stressed. These typically last for two weeks and are relatively painful for the first few days. People who are run down or living under a lot of stress are typically prone to these ulcers. In some people, acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, can lead to a canker sore.
Aging and Allergies
Fissures may begin to occur with age, but can also be hereditary. Fissures are not typically a health concern, but they do allow debris to accumulate and increase your potential for developing an infection that can lead to bad breath and a change in your ability to taste. Fissures often appear for the first time during childhood, but then deepen as you get older.
Certain allergies may lead to an issue called geographic tongue. This is a condition that causes patches on the tongue that change in size and location. In some cases, people can have soreness or burning with geographic tongue. Once the allergen has been removed, the condition is able to resolve itself.
While you may have not considered doing so before, it is important to pay attention to your tongue. It may be able to give you some insight into further health conditions.