In medical terms, any kind infection in tongue is referred to as glossitis. The tongue mainly consists of muscles which are covered up with the mucous membrane. It has taste buds on its surface that enable us to taste the food that we eat. The tongue helps us in chewing and swallowing food. During communication, we use the tongue along with jaws and lips to produce words. When the tongue is infected, its appearance as well as function changes.
What Causes Tongue Infections
Tongue infections are caused by fungus, bacteria, and virus. An infection due to herpes simplex virus type 1 is a common occurrence. As a result, white or yellow fluid-filled blisters with a red base appear on the surface of the tongue. These sores are known as canker sores or fever blisters (where it is accompanied by fever).
Oral thrush is one such infection which results from yeast build up inside the mouth. Staphylococcus bacteria is often held responsible for bacterial infection in the tongue. Sometimes, infections develop after the tongue is injured by minor burns or accidental biting of the tongue. Infections may occur after tongue piercings if aftercare instructions are not followed properly. A recurrent tongue infections in children can be a sign of other underlying health problems like inflammatory bowel disease or vitamin B deficiency.
Symptoms of a Tongue Infection
The most obvious signs of all kinds of tongue infection are pain and swelling. These two symptoms make activities like chewing, swallowing and speech, a painful affair. If you look at the tongue in normal condition, you would notice small bumps on its surface which are known as papillae. When it gets infected, these bumps disappear and the tongue becomes smooth and sensitive.
Infection by herpes simplex virus can be identified with painful sores that look like polka dots on the tongue. There are some differences in the characteristics of canker sores and fever blisters. Canker sores are found only inside the oral cavity while fever blisters appear both on the tongue as well as on the areas surrounding the mouth. Usually, the size of the cankers sores are comparatively larger and takes more time to heal up.
In case of oral thrush, the tongue turns red and creamy, white lesions are found on its surface. The white patches caused by fungus may spread to the throat and esophagus as well. In some infections, the tongue gets blotchy and the patterns of the blotches keep changing from time to time. It is mostly accompanied by a burning pain in the tongue. Sometimes, bleeding may occur from the infected tongue.
Remedies for Tongue Infections
Canker sores and fever blisters usually do not require any treatment. However, there are several over-the-counter ointments with zinc content that can be applied topically on the tongue sores for faster relief from the painful symptoms. A mild yeast infection may also get cured on its own. However, if it turns serious, then antifungal medicines are prescribed by the doctors to check the fungal growth. Those who get tongue infections repeatedly because of deficiency of vitamin B should eat dairy products, bananas, fish, liver, etc., in larger quantities.
There are some simple remedies that you can try out at home to get relief from the symptoms of tongue infections. Gargling with warm, saline water several times a day is highly beneficial in this regard as the salt kills the infection causing pathogens thriving inside the mouth. Maintaining a good oral hygiene is a must when you are going for tongue piercings. The injury and swelling caused by tongue piercing can be managed by sipping warm water after frequent intervals.
Most of the causes of tongue infections can be controlled to a large extent with the help of proper oral hygiene. During this time, one should eat soft food that can be swallowed quite easily. Acidic foods or drinks should be strictly avoided as they can aggravate the symptoms.