Tongue is an essential part of your body which is largely used in digestion of food particles. Tongue is a muscular organ that helps one to speak properly. Any swelling on the tongue can affect the way you eat or speak. Number of factors can affect the tongue causing inflammation and swelling. Tongue inflammation is medically described as smooth tongue or glassodynia. The tongue changes its normal color and become red and swollen. Swollen tongue can be caused due to vitamin B12 deficiency, side effect of medications and due to acromegaly or gigantism. It can be treated if the underlying causes are known.
Swollen Tongue Causes :
Various factors can cause tongue inflammation or swollen tongue. ACE inhibitors drugs given for hypertension can cause swollen tongue. These medications are given for inhibiting the angiotensin enzyme and this can cause inflammation of the tongue called angioneurotic edema. People taking ACE inhibitors will develop swelling on their face and tongue due to adverse reaction. However not all the people taking this drug would develop inflammation but only some people are affected.
Angioneurotic edema can also occur as allergic reaction of other medications causing swollen tongue. Eating too hot and spicy foods can also affect the soft lining of the tongue causing inflammation. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause inflammation of the tongue. Candida infection can cause fever and thrush leading to swollen tongue. Certain conditions like dehydration can cause dry mouth which may lead to tongue inflammation.
Certain illness like hypothyroidism (less secretion of thyroid hormone) can cause swollen tongue. Anemia, Kawasaki disease and strep infection can also affect your tongue. Sometimes people can develop swollen tongue due to allergic reaction caused by wearing dentures, dental procedures, mouthwash, and medications. Any abnormality in the functions of salivary gland can affect the tongue causing inflammation.
Swollen tongue can also be formed as a result of injury or infection inside the oral cavity. Certain skin problems like syphilis, oral lichen planus and bullous pemphigoid can affect the tongue causing swelling. Eating hot and spicy foods and consumption of alcohol can also cause tongue irritation leading to swollen tongue.
Some of the common signs of tongue inflammation are ulcerous growth on the tongue, change in normal color, tender tongue, and swelling of tongue, burning pain on the tongue and loss of taste and problems in eating/swallowing and even speaking. In severe cases inflammation of tongue can affect the normal breathing pattern.
Mere physical examination of the tongue is enough to detect swollen tongue. Your doctor will check the condition of the tongue looking for sores and change in color. For some people there can be small papules or lesions on the tongue indicating ulcers. He would collect complete medical history of the patient including the list of medications and habits etc. In case he suspects vitamin deficiency he would order for blood test. For confirming skin infection, your doctor may do a biopsy on the tongue by collecting small tissue sample from your tongue and testing it on the laboratory.
The plan of treatment varies according to the root cause of tongue inflammation. The main objective of the treatment is to reduce swelling and give relief from the symptoms. Anti-inflammatory drugs like histamines and pain killers like ibuprofen are given for first hand relief. In case of fungal/yeast infections, antimicrobial drugs are prescribed. He would also advise you to take vitamin B12 supplements.
Lifestyle Changes :
You need to quit smoking and drinking if you develop swollen tongue. Inflammation of the tongue can be a sign to tell that something is wrong inside. Practicing good oral hygiene is necessary. Brushing your teeth after every meal can help in reducing the infection largely. Go for routine dental checkups.