The tongue is a muscular organ that performs various vital functions. It moves the food around the teeth and pushes it towards the back of the throat. It is vital for chewing and swallowing food. It also assists in the articulation of speech. The hyoid bone, which is a U-shaped bone present at the base of the tongue, supports four extrinsic muscles that help in changing the position of the tongue. There are four intrinsic muscles that lie within the tongue. These muscles allow it to contract, expand or change its shape. While the salivary glands keep it moist, the rough and bumpy texture of the tongue is attributed to tiny bumps or raised protrusions on the surface of the tongue. These bumps are referred to as papillae. The surface of the papillae is covered by several taste buds. There are four types of papillae. These include fungiform, filiform, foliate and circumvallate papillae.
Out of these, circumvallate papillae are the largest. About 10 to 14 circumvallate papillae are present on the back of tongue. While you eat, the nerves that are connected to the taste buds over the papillae send signals to the brain and this is how we are able to identify whether the food has a salty, sweet, sour or bitter taste. At times, papillae might get enlarged. These could even turn white or red. Red or white bumps on the back of throat and tongue could be caused due to certain medical conditions. Scroll down to learn about the circumstances under which such bumps may appear on the back of the tongue.
As mentioned earlier, the raised protrusions at the back of the tongue are referred to as circumvallate papillae. Though the texture of the tongue is rough due to these raised protrusions, the appearance and the texture of the tongue may change under certain circumstances. For instance, consumption of hot and spicy food items could irritate the taste buds. The large white bumps that are present at the back of the throat could even be sub-epithelial lymphoid tissues. The papillae or the sub-epithelial lymphoid tissues could also get enlarged or inflamed due to bacterial, fungal or viral infections. When one suffers from an infection, these might turn white or red. Here are some of the common causes of large white bumps on back of tongue.
Canker sores are also referred to as aphthous ulcerations or mouth sores. These are painful white lesions that could develop on the back of tongue, gums, lips or inner lining of the cheeks. Canker sores are round or oval lesions that are white or yellow at the center and have a reddish outline. Canker sores on tongue could be a symptoms of an infection, nutritional deficiency, hormonal imbalance or a food allergy. Prolonged use of certain drugs could also cause sore spots on the tongue. Canker sores usually heal within a couple of weeks. So, if a sore spot on the tongue doesn't heal within two weeks, it would be best to consult a doctor.
Bumps might develop in response to consumption of foods or drugs one might be allergic to. When you consume anything that the immune system thinks of as a threat, it releases histamines as an immune response. Tongue swelling or development of red or white lesions on tongue are some of the common symptoms of drug or food allergies. This condition can be treated with the help of antihistamines. It's important that one refrains from consuming any food, medicine or products that might trigger such an allergic reaction.
Oral lichen planus is another condition that could give rise to formation of white patches on the mucous membranes inside the mouth. This is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder that can cause lacy white/red patches of raised tissues on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, throat or even the food pipe. While the exact causes of this disorder are not really known, food/drug allergies or infections could be the contributory factors. Use of poorly fitted dentures and poor oral hygiene can also worsen the symptoms.
Oral thrush occurs when a yeast fungus called Candida albicans infects the mucous membranes of the mouth. This condition gives rise to the development of yellow/white raised patches in the mouth. It generally affects infants or the elderly. Those who wear dentures are more susceptible to oral thrush. People suffering from diabetes or metabolic disorders are at an increased risk of suffering from oral thrush. Those who suffer from dry mouth due to use of certain drugs are also susceptible. Those who have a weak immune system are more likely to develop such infections.
White patches on the back of the tongue could also be attributed to leukoplakia. Constant irritation of the tongue due to dentures, filling or crowns could cause leukoplakia. Excessive consumption of chewing tobacco could also cause precancerous lesions or sores on the tongue or the mucus membranes. Leukoplakia may be benign or malignant. It could also be caused due to yeast fungus Candida albicans or human papillomavirus (HPV).
While the aforementioned conditions cause white patches or lesions on the tongue, there are other medical conditions that could cause red bumps. These include benign migratory glossitis (geographic tongue), scarlet fever and Kawasaki disease. The treatment for bumps or sores on tongue will vary depending on the underlying cause. Drug therapy combined with certain lifestyle-related changes will surely prove beneficial in the treatment. One must also follow a proper oral hygiene regimen and refrain from consumption of certain food items in order to prevent the problem of tongue sores and inflammation of taste buds.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.