The tongue, like the rest of the inner surface
of the mouth, may have several diseases common to the inner mouth
cavity. However, its refinements in touching and tasting bring it in
contact with all substances entering the mouth and expose it to more
irritation than the rest of the oral cavity.
There are a variety of causes for tongue
discolouration. Fortunately, the majority of them are not serious and
most can be resolved quickly. In some instances, however, a discoloured
or painful tongue can indicate more serious conditions, including
vitamin deficiencies, AIDS, or oral cancer. For this reason, it is
important to seek medical advice.
- WHITE DISCOLOURATION
There are a number of causes responsible for it.
- Leukoplakia- This condition causes cells in the mouth to grow
excessively that leading to formation of white patches in oral cavity
including tongue also. Although not dangerous on its own, leukoplakia
can be a precursor to cancer. So medical attention should be given to
it. Smoking, tobacco chewing, alcohol abuse, chronic trauma from ill
fitted dentures or cheek bite are some of the etiological factors.
- Oral thrush- it is caused by candida albicans. It appears as a white grey patch. When wiped off, they leave a erythematous mucosa. Oral
thrush is most commonly seen in infants and the elderly, especially
denture wearers, or in people with compromised immune systems. Oral
thrush is more likely to occur after the use of antibiotics, which may
kill the "good" bacteria in the mouth.
- Oral lichen planus.
- Mouth breathing
- RED DISCOLOURATION OR STRAWBERRY TONGUE
- Vitamin deficiency- Niacin and folic acid deficiency may lead to red and smooth tongue.
- Scarlet fever- The first sign of scarlet fever may be a change from the tongue's normal colour to a strawberry, and then raspberry, colour.
- Kawasaki Syndrome- This disease, usually seen in children under the age of five, affects the blood vessels in the body and can cause
strawberry tongue. During the acute phase of illness, children often
run an extremely high fever and may also have redness and swelling in
the hands and feet.
- Geographic tongue- This condition, also known as benign migratory glossitis, is named for the map-like pattern of reddish spots that
develop on the surface of the tongue. At times, these patches have a
white border around them, and their location on the tongue may shift
- BLACK DISCOLOURATION-
A black tongue discolouration is most commonly caused by organisms like yeast and bacteria growing on the surface of the tongue. These bacteria and yeast produce blood cell pigments called porphyrins which
give rise to the black colour characteristically seen. The overgrowth
of bacteria can also cause cells of the tongue to be shed more slowly,
causing the tongue to take on a hairy appearance, known as a black,
hairy tongue. A variety of factors are believed to contribute to this
phenomenon including improper tooth and gum care; the use of tobacco
products; drinking excessive amounts of tea or coffee; or use of
antibiotics, bismuth containing medications and in immune- compromised
- BLUE DISCOLOURATION-
Bluish discolouration on the tongue is usually a type of birthmark. It
is usually painless, does not bleed and is not sore, is slightly
elevated and occasionally covered with small amounts of hair. They have
great nuisance value but little actual danger. They, of course, exist
On ruling out external causes (heavy smoking, tobacco chewing, etc.)
tongue discolouration and coating should be investigated all the way
with routine blood and urine analysis. If necessary, ultra sound scan
or CT scan for abdomen or endoscopic procedures should be done when
there arises a suspicion of digestive tract involvement. Other
important tests which can guide for diagnosis are:
- Scraping and culture - to
identify fungal (Candida) or bacterial infection
- Biopsy - to diagnose cancer
is dependent upon the cause but management is necessary.
- oral hygiene has to be maintained
- Smoking should be quit
- Avoid chewing tobacco
- Diet should be nutritious and balanced.
Role of homoeopathy
Tongue discolouration and coating can be treated well by the
homeopathic system of medicine. It will help in diagnosing diseases and
remedy selection. In homeopathy, there are lots and lots of medicines
for tongue discolouration, coating and disorders. The right simillimum
(appropriate homeopathic medicine) will act by getting to the core of
the disease and clear tongue problems simultaneously.
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