Swollen tongue

A swollen tongue is often a painful condition.

The swelling can be dangerous, because a greatly enlarged tongue can:

  • clog the airways in the posterior region of the neck,
  • block the air before it reaches the lungs.

Tongue swelling can have various causes, but most commonly it is caused by inflammation.

Inflammation of the tongue is called glossitis.
As a rule, glossitis leads to:

  • Reddening
  • Swelling
  • Disappearance of taste buds.

The taste buds usually form slight bumps on the surface of the tongue; when they disappear, the tongue becomes shiny and smooth.
The inflammation can affect the entire tongue or individual regions; these complaints are also known as “burning mouth syndrome“.
This name is very significant, because glossitis often causes a continuous burning sensation in the mouth.
In addition, the tongue may hurt or feel numb to the touch.


Swollen tongue in children

The swollen tongue may indicate a serious illness, for this it is necessary to take into account the accompanying symptoms and the cause of the swelling.
An allergic reaction can have the following effects:

  • Hives (urticaria) on the tongue or lips, plus the typical spots on the skin.
  • Angioedema provokes swelling under the surface of the skin.

Both urticaria and angioedema can be caused by:

  • food intolerances,
  • allergic reactions to medications,
  • insect bites,
  • mild infections,
  • Stress
  • temperature changes (heat or cold),
  • physical activity
  • idiopathic reasons, that is, the causes are unknown to doctors.

In the absence of other serious symptoms (such as shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing), the swollen tongue may be the result of a mild allergic reaction.
Parents must immediately notify the pediatrician if the child requires a more aggressive form of treatment.

Causes of a swollen tongue

Allergies aren’t the only triggers for a swollen tongue, other possible causes include:

  • Nutrient deficiencies, e.g. lack of iron, vitamin B12 or vitamin B3.
  • Infection in or on the tongue.
  • Traumatic injuries to the tongue, e.g. from burns or piercing.
  • Irritation from hot and spicy foods and drinks, alcohol or cigarette smoke.
  • Oral or tongue tumor.
  • Insect bite or sting in the tongue that provokes swelling (without an allergic reaction).
  • After surgery in the mouth such as when removing the tonsils, the swelling can develop in the back of the tongue, as well as laterally.

Some of these causes develop slowly over time, so they are often difficult to determine.
In other cases, the reason for a swollen tongue is more obvious. For example, the child may have suffered from a viral infection that caused tongue ulcers, resulting in a secondary bacterial infection.
Or the child was stung directly in the tongue by a bee.

Angioedema (Quincke’s edema) “Angioedema”
means swelling under the surface of the skin that may occur on the tongue, mouth, throat and other parts of the body.

Angioedema is the accumulation of fluid (swelling or edema) under the surface of the skin, mainly on the lips and eyes.

There are two forms of angioedema:

  1. Hereditary angioedema, a rare inherited disease, Some people are prone to a swollen tongue. This disorder can occur regularly for no apparent reason.
  2. Acquired angioedema. It can be the side effect of certain medications or an allergic reaction. In an allergic reaction, the body produces histamine, which causes dilation of blood vessels.
    Angioedema is similar to hives, but unlike this, it occurs without itching and red rash, and the swelling is deeper.

Angioedema can occur anywhere, especially on the face and mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.
The swelling develops quickly and can occur in a few minutes or hours.
It can affect
only one half of the body Most often, angioedema occurs in mild form.
In severe cases, the swelling affects the tongue or throat, which can lead to airway obstruction and be fatal.

Diseases that can
cause tongue swelling These are not necessarily serious illnesses, but medical care may be required:
1. Trauma (this includes burning the tongue from hot food).
2. Sore spots on the tongue (usually virus-related).
3. Herpangina, a little-known viral disease of the oral mucosa that occurs in a warm environment.
4. Infection with streptococci.
5. Cancer (e.g. tongue cancer).
6. Genetic changes, such as Down or Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.
7. Certain diseases, such as acromegaly, hypothyroidism and amyloidosis; An underactive thyroid gland is characterized by a lack of production of thyroid hormones on the part of the thyroid gland.
9. Pernicious anemia (Biermer’s disease).
10. Chronic deficiency of vitamin B3.

Serious illnesses
An immediate visit to the doctor is necessary if the swollen tongue is accompanied by:

  • difficulty breathing,
  • foam at the mouth,
  • Swallowing.

An allergic reaction with tongue swelling can mean a life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock.

Epiglottitis is the inflammation of the epithelium, which can provoke swelling of the tongue and throat.
It occurs preferably in toddlers and schoolchildren (2-7 years) and is noticeable by:

  • Slaver
  • high fever (39-40°C),
  • difficulty swallowing.

Pregnancy Many pregnant women have a swollen tongue and pain during pregnancy.
Possible causes of this are infections, allergies, trauma and others.
Rapid swelling of the tongue can mean anaphylactic shock, requiring immediate medical attention.
If the swelling persists for a long time, the doctor should be consulted so that the cause can be determined.

Piercing The healing times after a piercing
are at least 15 days.
The tongue piercing can cause severe pain for up to two days and probably the tongue volume also increases.

The doctors advise drinking cold drinks or sucking ice cubes to promote decongestion.
It is quite normal for the tongue to swell after piercing, so there is no need to worry.
Initially, it turns purple, then it turns white, then yellow, and finally returns to its normal color. After piercing, only cool and soft foods should be eaten, such as ice cream, yogurt or fruit juices.

To speed up healing, a fasting cure of one to two days is recommended, if there are no contraindications.

Without treatment, the swelling caused by piercing can provoke infection of the tongue, leading to severe oral problems. If the pain can not be relieved, then after consultation with the doctor, anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken in the first few days.
The swollen tongue heals on its own.
One can only try not to increase the symptoms, i.e. avoid foods and drinks that can cause an infection and worsen the swelling.

What are the symptoms of a swollen tongue?

The symptoms of tongue inflammation depend on the severity and the triggering diseases.
Typical symptoms of an inflamed tongue are:

  • Discomfort when chewing, swallowing or speaking.
  • Painful tongue.
  • Color change of the tongue, which can become light or red, in rare cases also black or brown.
  • Severe swelling of the tongue, as a result of which the airways are blocked.
  • There may be no pain.
  • Tongue swelling may be the only symptom.

Tongue diagnostics in traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the tongue can reveal a lot about a person’s health.
Tongue diagnosis is an important aspect of medical evaluation.
During the examination, the therapist pays attention to:

  • lining of the tongue,
  • Tongue shape,
  • Tongue color.

Then the individual tongue sections are evaluated.

What is the shape of the tongue?
Usually, the tongue is not too thick and not too thin.
The tongue must not be incised on the sides and must not have any furrows in the middle.
Changes in the shape of the tongue, as a rule, indicate a chronic disease; This influences:

  • Blood
  • body fluids,
  • Qi (internal energy).

In traditional Chinese medicine, a swollen tongue indicates a qi deficiency in the spleen or kidney, especially if traces of the teeth are found on the sides.

What to do in case of swollen tongue? Therapy

Treatment of the inflamed tongue focuses on two treatment goals:

  • First, swelling and pain are to be relieved.
  • Secondly, treatment must be aimed at curing the underlying disease responsible for the swollen tongue.

The doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory or recommend an over-the-counter medication (such as ibuprofen) that relieves inflammation and pain.
If an infection is responsible for the tongue swelling, the doctor may prescribe medications such as:

Natural remedies for swollen tongue

  • The diet should be changed.
  • Iron or vitamin B12 supplements can be used.
  • Change of lifestyle, e.g. quitting smoking, abstaining from alcohol.
  • Careful oral hygiene can reduce the symptoms of an inflamed tongue; This includes:
    • brushing your teeth 3 times a day;
    • daily clean the interdental spaces with dental floss;
    • regular visits to the dentist and teeth cleaning.

Homeopathy for swollen tongue

Homeopathic remedies include echinacea.

The mother tincture of echinacea is a liquid taken to strengthen the immune system.
Some people resort to this remedy when they suffer from seasonal flu or runny nose.
Herbalists confirm that the mother tincture of echinacea increases the concentration of white blood cells, which are the blood cells that fight infection.
Echinacea also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that help cure colds and virus groups.

The tincture can be taken together with a glass of water or placed under the tongue.
The amount of drops depends on the strength of the tincture.
In most cases, the mother tincture of echinacea must be taken two or three times a day as long as symptoms persist.
You can also gargle with it for a sore throat.

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