What Causes Tongue Inflammation?

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Tongue inflammation, which is sometimes referred to as glossitis, is a condition in which the tongue becomes swollen, smooth, sore or discolored. This condition can be caused by a number of factors such as bacterial infections, allergic reactions or exposure to irritating substances. In some cases, an inflammation of the tongue may be a sign of an underlying issue such as anemia, certain autoimmune disorders or dietary deficiencies.

An inflamed tongue may be either a primary or secondary condition, but it also may be inherited. As a primary condition, tongue inflammation is most commonly the result of trauma. Burns from hot drinks, spicy or acidic foods or concentrated dental care products may cause the tongue to become swollen or painful to the touch. The tongue may also become inflamed or infected by poorly fitting dentures, jagged teeth or by an improperly placed piercing. In some cases, the use of chewing or smoking tobacco, alcohol or undiluted herbal tinctures may also cause trauma that results in swelling.

Allergies and deficiencies are two other potential causes of inflammation. In many people, especially in those who are hypersensitive, certain substances may cause acute inflammation. Dyes and preservatives are sometimes prone to causing an allergic reaction, as are many dental hygiene products and certain medications and treatments, such as bronchodilators and chemotherapy. Deficiencies in certain B and C vitamins as well as in minerals such as iron may also cause tongue inflammation.


Secondary conditions are also common reasons why a tongue might become inflamed. Certain skin conditions, such as lichen planus or erythema multiforme, can affect the mucous membranes and may also cause lesions to form on the tongue. Other secondary causes of tongue inflammation may consist of diseases such as syphilis, stomatitis or oral herpes. In addition, conditions that may cause dry mouth, such as Sjogren's syndrome, can potentially lead to an inflammation of the tongue.

Though uncommon, tongue inflammation may be due to hereditary or congenital conditions and may also be the result of certain types of poisoning. Acrodermatitis enteropathica, a hereditary condition that is characterized by a deficiency in zinc, may cause the tongue to become swollen, glossy and red. While median rhomboid glossitis, which is sometimes thought to be a congenital condition, is not usually painful, it may make a portion of the tongue either red or white in appearance. Exposure to poisons such as arsenic or mercury may also cause the tongue to become inflamed.


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Post 5

I haven't been eating properly for two weeks because of my gastric pain. I can only consume two slices of bread and milk per day. The 14th day my tongue started to become inflamed. I can't swallow because it is painful, like something is sticking to my throat. I can't even breathe properly, either. Can the excessive acidity in my body be the cause of my problem? Are there other reasons?

Post 3

My coworker noticed some white bumps on her tongue one day. She tried to scrape them with her fingernail, and the area underneath was bright red. It even bled a little.

Her doctor diagnosed her with oral thrush. This is basically a yeast infection in the mouth. He gave her some antifungal medication, and the condition disappeared within a week.

It looked pretty scary in the beginning, though. She thought she must have had some rare infectious disease, so she was relieved to find out it was so easily treatable.

Post 2

@shell4life – Having a sore tongue is the worst! Mine is usually paired with a sore cheek, because I tend to bite both.

What's equally troubling is having a burned tongue. I tend to slurp down soup and coffee as soon as it is offered to me without checking the temperature first, and this often results in painful burns. I have to pour ice water into my mouth as soon as possible.

For at least the rest of the day, I will have spots on my tongue that just don't feel right. Whenever food or liquid moves across them, the sensation of eating just isn't as enjoyable.

Post 1

My tongue becomes inflamed when I accidentally bite it, and the soreness lasts for several days sometimes. I once bit the tip of my tongue, and it stayed sore constantly for about a week. This was because it rested on top of my bottom teeth, and the constant contact irritated the inflamed tissue.

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