Medical diagnostic science has made significant advancements, making it easier for doctors to identify a particular disease or health condition. A plethora of tests are available, which can eliminate all doubts and help in making an accurate diagnosis.
However, during preliminary examination, the doctor may look at your tongue in addition to asking you about your symptoms. It makes us wonder why doctors look at the tongue. What does the tongue tell us about our health? To answer such questions, here are some things you need to know. Remember that a healthy tongue will be pink in color and have small nodules (papillae).
White coating or white spots – This could indicate a yeast infection inside the mouth. This condition has been observed more frequently among infants and elderly. People with weak immune system or those taking inhaled anti-inflammatory steroids can also have this condition. Antibiotics can also result in white coating on the tongue.
Red tongue – A red tongue can be linked to various health conditions. Based on this symptom, the doctor can order further tests. One of the reasons for red tongue could be deficiency of Vitamin B9 (Folic acid) and Vitamin B12. Another condition is Geographic tongue, which is marked by a pattern of reddish spots. This is usually harmless though. Red tongue can indicate Scarlet fever, which is characterized by red and bumpy appearance. Similar patterns on the tongue can also be formed by Kawasaki disease.
Fissured tongue – Tongue with deep grooves in it may be linked to conditions such as psoriasis, Down syndrome and Sjögren’s syndrome. Your doctor will order specific tests to identify the underlying condition.
Macroglossia – This is when the tongue becomes unusually large. The underlying factor could be infection, allergy or hypothyroidism.
Hairy tongue – This is not actually hairs growing inside the mouth, but a coating of brown or black on the tongue. The hair like appearance comes from papillae that have grown unusually long. This condition is usually harmless and can be avoided with good dental hygiene.
Sore and bumpy – This condition can be due to factors such as smoking and trauma. For example, accidently biting the tongue or getting scalded when eating hot food. Another common reason is canker sores, which is normally referred to as mouth ulcer. However, these usually heal on their own.
Cancer – Most issues related to tongue such as bumps, spots and varying colors are usually benign. They will either go away on their own or can be treated with appropriate medication. However, if there are sores and bumps that don’t heal even after two weeks, it would be time to see a doctor. Such symptoms have been associated with cancer.