Tongue Problems

  • Medical Author:
    Donna S. Bautista, DDS

    Dr. Donna S. Bautista, DDS, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor of arts in biochemistry and cell biology. During her time at UC San Diego, she was involved in basic research including studying processes related to DNA transcription in the field of molecular biology. Upon graduation, she went on to attend dental school at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to her formal dental training, she provided dental care for underserved communities in the Bay Area through clinics and health fairs. She also worked toward mentoring high school students interested in the field of dentistry.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideTop Problems in Your Mouth

Top Problems in Your Mouth

Increased size or tongue swelling

Swelling or enlargement of the tongue, referred to as macroglossia, can be caused by allergies, medications, injuries, or an underlying medical condition such as amyloidosis. Addressing the underlying condition is the usual treatment for macroglossia.

Allergic reaction to medications, food, or even a bee sting can cause swelling of the tongue. In the case of sudden and rapid onset of swelling of the tongue, one should seek emergency care as breathing can become compromised.

Tongue swelling can also be a side effect of medication. Some medications that have this side effect are ACE inhibitors (to treat high blood pressure) and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Aleve, Advil, and aspirin.

An injury from hot food or liquid that burns the tongue or simply biting the tongue can irritate the tongue to cause swelling.

Conditions such as oral thrush or oral herpes viruses can cause the tongue to swell due to inflammation. Other medical conditions include tumorous cancer, acromegaly (giantism), amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, hypothyroidism, and Kawasaki disease. Tongue swelling can also be found in individuals with Down syndrome.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/31/2017

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