Glossitis is a medical condition wherein the tongue gets infected or inflamed due to bacterial or viral infections. This article gives information about its types, causes, symptoms, tests, treatments, and methods of prevention.
The occurrence of glossitis results in inflammation of the tongue, which causes it to swell and alter color. The finger-like projections on the surface of the tongue are lost as the tongue appears smooth.
- Benign migratory glossitis has annular areas of desquamation of the filiform papillae on the dorsal part of the tongue. There are pinkish-red central lesions having thin, yellowish lines or bands. Patterns and locations change after every few days. This is also called erythema migrans, glossitis migrans, glossitis areata exfoliativa, or pityriasis linguae.
- Hunter’s glossitis is characterized by pain and burning sensation, but can also extend from the tongue to the other parts of the oral mucosa. Finally, the tongue is transformed to atrophic, has a beefy red color, and a smooth, shiny appearance. There are sometimes small ulcers that spread over its surface. This is also called atrophic glossitis.
- Median rhomboid glossitis is a congenital disorder of noninflammatory origin having a somewhat rhomboid reddish, smooth, and shiny lesion along with some opalescent spots. These occur in the central third of the dorsal surface of the tongue.
- Idiopathic glossitis is an inflammation of the tongue and its mucous membrane.
- Herpetic geometric glossitis is a painful, longitudinal, crossed, or branched fissure on the dorsum of the tongue.
- Irritants like alcohol, hot foods, tobacco, or spices
- Bacterial and viral infections (including oral herpes simplex)
- Mechanical irritation, rough edges of teeth, injury from burns, dental appliances
- Allergic reaction to toothpaste, dyes in candy, breath fresheners, mouthwash, plastic in dentures, and some blood pressure medications
- Disorders like pernicious anemia, iron deficiency anemia, and other vitamin B deficiencies
- Conditions like oral lichen planus, aphthous ulcers, syphilis, and erythema multiforme
- Alcohol consumption can cause many birth defects like fetal alcohol syndrome
- Plummer-Vinson syndrome which includes iron deficiency anemia, dysphagia, and nail abnormalities
- Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that causes scaling and inflammation
- Pemphigus vulgaris is a rare autoimmune disorder, which causes blisters on mucous membranes like the mouth
- Deficiency of niacin, iron, B12, vitamin E, folate, and riboflavin
- Sometimes, this condition can also be inherited
- Smooth appearance of the tongue
- Swelling of the tongue
- Sore and tender tongue
- Color of the tongue becomes pale due to pernicious anemia or fiery red due to deficiency of vitamin B
- Difficulty when swallowing, speaking, or chewing
- White patches may be noted in patients
An examination proves the presence of a swollen tongue or patches of swelling. It is seen that the nodules on the surface of the tongue called papillae are not present. Blood tests have to be done to detect systemic causes of the disorder.
The aim of treatment is reduction of inflammation.
- There is a need for hospitalization only if the swelling of the tongue is severe.
- Good oral hygiene is essential.
- Tooth brushing has to be done at least twice in a day, and flossing has to be done daily.
- Corticosteroids like prednisone reduce the inflammation. For mild cases, topical applications may be prescribed to overcome the side effects of swallowed or injected corticosteroids.
- Antibiotics, antifungal medications, or some other microbials are useful if infection is the cause.
- Anemia or other deficiencies have to be treated by dietary changes or other supplements.
- Irritants like alcohol, tobacco, and hot/spicy foods have to be avoided to minimize discomfort.
The condition can be painless, or it may lead to tongue and mouth discomfort. Sometimes, there may be severe tongue swelling, due to which the airway is blocked.
- Proper oral hygiene using tooth brushing and flossing along with regular professional cleaning and examination are useful to prevent the disorders.
- The irritants or injury in the mouth have to be minimized whenever possible.
- The eating of any food or substance that irritates the mouth or tongue has to be avoided.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.