Tongue Problems (cont.)

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Red tongue

There are obvious causes of red color change such as something you ate (strawberries or red-colored foods). Some acidic foods can cause temporary redness and discomfort. However, a red tongue can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Some red color changes on the tongue (“strawberry tongue”) could be related to vitamin deficiency, Kawasaki disease, or a strep infection (scarlet fever).

Erythroplakia is a red patch or lesion that cannot be rubbed off on the tongue (except for the color, it is similar to leukoplakia). A lesion with a combined white and red appearance is called erythroleukoplakia. These lesions are all considered to have premalignant potential. Erythroplakia and erythroleukoplakia have an increased risk of premalignancy compared to leukoplakia. In addition to appearance, cause for concern can be if the lesion or sore does not go away or grows in size. A biopsy is recommended with an oral surgeon or an ENT specialist to rule out oral cancer.

Black tongue

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A black tongue is usually a harmless condition that can be caused by medications, smoking, poor oral hygiene, soft diet, or dry mouth. A black tongue is usually associated with elongated tongue papillae and thus, it is called “black hairy tongue” (lingua villosa nigra). The cause is thought to be a change in the normal bacteria in the mouth after antibiotic treatment or use of products that contain bismuth such as Pepto-Bismol. (“Hairy tongue” by itself can also be white or tan.) Treatment may involve improving one's diet, smoking cessation, and improved oral hygiene (including gently brushing or scraping the tongue).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/1/2013

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Tongue Problems - Describe Your Problems Question: Please describe your tongue problems.
Tongue Problems - Treatments Question: What treatment did you receive for your tongue problem?
Tongue Problems - Infants and Children Question: What kind of tongue problem does your infant or young child suffer from?
Tongue Problems - Hairy Tongue Question: Were you diagnosed with hairy tongue? What was the cause?
Tongue Problems - Oral Cancer Question: Have you been diagnosed with oral cancer on your tongue? How are you coping?
Tongue Problems - Leukoplakia Question: Do you have leukoplakia? How did you get rid of it?

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