When was the last time you looked at your tongue? A healthy tongue should appear pink and should be covered in small, evenly sized nodules, which are called papillae. If your tongue changes in color, texture, or size, this could be a sign of an underlying health problem. What is your tongue telling you about your health? Keep reading to find out.
A White, Patchy Tongue
If your tongue develops white patches that seem to have a fuzzy appearance, you might have a health condition known as thrush. This is a fungal infection caused by a species of yeast called Candida albicans. Everyone has some of this yeast in their mouth, but under certain conditions, it may replicate to the point of over-abundance, and that’s when you get thrush.
Thrush is common in undiagnosed diabetics as it can be the result of sustained high blood sugar. It is also common in patients who wear dentures. Your dentist or doctor can help you get it under control by prescribing anti-fungal medications.
The idea of hair growing on your tongue may sound strange, but it does happen to some people! Hair-like projections that don’t scrape away are actually made from protein. They typically occur in people who have faulty immune systems and are definitely a sign you need to see your doctor.
If your tongue starts to look more red than pink, this could be a sign of vitamin B3 deficiency. This vitamin, also known as niacin, is important for metabolism. Deficiencies are not very common in the United States, but they can occur. Other symptoms may include headache, fatigue, and dry skin. Your doctor can diagnose a B3 deficiency with a simple blood test, and it is easily corrected with supplements.
A red tongue can also indicate an infectious illness such as strep throat or scarlet fever. If you have any other symptoms of illness, like a sore throat or a cough, make sure you mention the red tongue to your doctor as it can help with the diagnosis.
If your tongue always feels dry, that is probably because your mouth, in general, is too dry. Under-production of saliva can be caused by an autoimmune disorder, and it can also be a side effect of certain medications. Dry mouth can lead to cavities and gum disease, but your doctor can recommend a moistening rinse to help combat it.
What if your tongue feels like it is burning? This could be another sign of dry mouth. It also commonly occurs after you’ve eaten a lot of pineapple, which contains an irritating compound called bromelain. Burning tongue can also indicate acid reflux, especially if it is accompanied by heartburn. Acid reflux should be treated and managed carefully as it can lead to esophageal damage over time, so talk to your doctor ASAP.
Make sure you check your tongue often and listen to what it is telling you! If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to your doctor or dentist.