When you stick out your tongue you want to see a pink, evenly bumped surface – a sign of good health. When you’re not healthy, the state of your tongue may tell you a lot. Quite a number of diseases show their symptoms on your tongue so it’s worth keeping an eye on what you see in the mirror when you stick it out.
Eww. This is often called a hairy tongue! A tongue turned brown or black looks nasty, but it's not a huge cause of concern. It represents overgrown papillae, which are the small bumps on the surface of your tongue. The overgrowth of these papillae will provide bacteria a feasible environment to grow, which in turn will lead to issues like taste abnormalities or bad breath. Avoiding coffee, smoking, and dark teas may help resolve the issue as will better oral hygiene, including using a tongue scraper.
Just like when you’ve overdosed on blueberries or black currants! You are not a giraffe! What your tongue says about your health when you notice a purplish appearance is that you have high blood cholesterol or chronic bronchitis, in which your airways cannot bring enough oxygen to your blood stream. It may also indicate poor circulation, too much sugar in the body, or blood stagnation, which could make you feel tired. It is good to seek medical advice if your tongue continues to be purple for long.
Yeast infection is the first possibility if you have a white coating on your tongue. It may well be thrush, especially if you notice a lumpy, cottage cheese white tongue. Thrush is an oral yeast infection usually linked to overuse of antibiotics. If it's a yeast infection, you may also notice taste disturbances and a bit of pain as well. OTCs won't always work for oral thrush, so you will have to see your doctor for treatment.
A strawberry red tongue indicates a number of things. If it is a glossy red it could be due to a deficiency in vitamin B12 or an iron deficiency – the shiny appearance is because the papillae on the surface are “going bald.” A red tongue can also be due to a folic acid deficiency or due to an infection called scarlet fever that gives your tongue a strawberry-like appearance.
You're getting older… accept it because your tongue confirms it. Cracks and fissures are usually harmless but watch out if your dental hygiene is poor. Infections and bacteria can develop in the clefts – it will cause symptoms such as a foul smell, pain, and a burning sensation when you eat something.
It may scare you like hell, but it's a normal and common condition. Also called 'geographic tongue' mainly because it looks like bumpy terrain, it affects between 1% and 14% of the U.S. population. It usually occurs when some of your taste buds shrink away. Some of them regenerate, others don't. The condition doesn't require a treatment, but you can ask your doctor for an antihistamine rinse or anti-inflammatory steroid paste if the condition becomes painful.
Hills and valleys are usually painless, but sometimes you may notice punched-out, painful areas develop on your tongue. They can be extremely painful and usually suggest that you're under serious stress. People who are run down are more likely to develop these ulcers, but they are not contagious, unless of course what you have on your tongue isn't a cold sore. If however the lesions persist, visit the doctor – especially if you are a smoker, as they might be pre-cancerous lesions.
The tongue may be a pretty small muscle but it’s a very important one. Longer term changes in its appearance may be saying something significant about your health so it is always best to get things checked out. Agreed?
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