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Our tongue is an important body part, although we tend to forget it. Like other parts of the body, the tongue can also show signs of illness or trauma to let us know that something isn’t OK. If you can recognize these seven signs associated with your tongue, it can help you find out what’s wrong.

1. If Your Tongue is Cracked

This crack down the middle of your tongue can develop with age. If you notice fissures in your tongue, they’re probably harmless. Only about 2-5% of the U.S. population has a fissured tongue and it may be genetically inherited. A fissure accompanied by unexplained facial or lip swelling, should signify you to make an appointment with your doctor. It could be the sign of a rare disease called Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.

2. If Your Tongue Has a Thick, Cheese-Like Coating

This feature can be a sign of a yeast infection called oral thrush. It most commonly appears in infants and young children, but it can also occur in those who wear dentures, have a weakened immune system or are taking antibiotics. If you noticed this on your tongue, visit your doctor to give you something to treat it.

3. If You Have Sores on Your Tongue

Biting your tongue can cause a sore to develop. Sores that appear on your tongue can also be canker sores. The exact cause of most canker sores remains unknown, but stress and acidic foods can trigger them and make them worse. If your sores don’t disappear in two weeks, visit with your doctor, because sores can also be a sign of oral cancer.


4. If Your Tongue Has Wavy Edges

If the edges of your tongue are scalloped or wavy, it could mean that your tongue is swollen. The swelling makes it press up against your teeth, creating indentations. It usually occurs as a result of something else going on in your body, such as allergies, a thyroid problem, fever or dehydration. Make sure you visit your doctor to discover the cause.

5. If Your Tongue is Pink and Slightly Bumpy

If your tongue is pink and bumpy, it shouldn’t worry you. The small bumps on the tongue are called papillae. They grip your food to make it easier to eat, and they contain your taste buds, which control your like and dislike of certain foods. They respond to both sweet and sour tastes.

6. If Your Tongue Has White Patches

White patches on the side or bottom of the tongue may be a sign of leukoplakia, a reaction to a long-standing irritation of the tongue. Constant irritation causes the cells in the affected area to multiply more than usual, which then results in the formation of a white patch. You shouldn’t worry about it, but it can be a starting point for cancer to develop later on. Make sure that you visit your doctor to see that it’s nothing serious.

7. If Your Tongue is Red and You Have a Fever

If your tongue or your child’s tongue turns a deep shade of red and is accompanied by high fever, contact a doctor immediately. It may be a sign of scarlet fever — strep throat with a rash — or Kawasaki disease, which affects the blood vessels. This is a non-contagious autoimmune disease that is seen in children under eight years old. If you or your child is experiencing these symptoms, visit a doctor to take a proper treatment.

A Tongue With Red SidesTongue Health Red Sides

If only the sides are red, this can also be aggravated by over-consumption of spicy or greasy foods and alcohol. A tongue with red sides can also be seen in people with irritable bowel syndrome. This can also be called liver fire and be the result of long-standing anger or resentment.

Other Possible Issues:

Glossitis: An inflammation of the tongue that may come from any number of issues. The process of inflammation increases blood flow to the tongue and leads to redness, pain and swelling. The more common causes of glossitis are acute mechanical or chemical injury or infections.
Vitamin Deficiencies: Vitamin B12, niacin or folic acid may cause a strawberry red tongue.
Scarlet Fever: A condition that may sometimes develop in a person with strep throat. It starts with a red rash that covers most of the body along with a strawberry red tongue. Scarlet fever arises as a reaction to the toxin from bacteria that causes the infection.
Toxic Shock Syndrome: (TSS) is an uncommon condition where the toxins from certain types of bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, trigger an immune reaction, and can be potentially life threatening.
Kawasaki Syndrome: A condition where there is inflammation of the medium and large artery walls. The exact cause is unknown but is believed to be a genetic susceptibility and possibly associated with autoimmune issues. It tends to affect boys under the age of 5 years most, but can occur in any age group and also affect females.
Purple/Blue Tongue

A purple/red-purple tongue may arise with certain diseases, and indicates long-standing inflammation. A purple tongue is uncommon compared to other discoloration, and is more commonly seen with nutritional deficiencies, in particular with vitamin B2 (riboflavin) deficiency. A tongue with a purple hue can also be seen in women who have very difficult menstrual cycles or in people who are experiencing chronic pain. This can also precede the development of a blue tongue explained below, and should be carefully monitored in acute cases to take note of whether more distinct color sets in.

Blue Tongue

A bluish tongue is always considered to a be a serious sign that warrants medical attention. It is an important sign of cyanosis, which is a condition caused by an insufficient oxygen supply to the tissue. The condition may be caused by blood disorders, diseased blood vessels, heart dysfunction or respiratory (lung & airway) problems.

More Causes Include:

  • Acute respiratory distress
  • Airway obstruction
  • Asthmatic attacks
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Poisoning
  • Suffocation


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Our tongue is an important body part, although we tend to forget it. Like other parts of the body, the tongue can also show signs of illness or trauma to let us know that something isn’t OK. If you can recognize these seven signs associated with your tongue, it...