Hairy Tongue: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 2/21/2017

Hairy tongue, medically known as lingua villosa, is generally a harmless condition that alters the appearance of the tongue, making it appear discolored and furry. Hairy tongue is also commonly referred to as black hairy tongue (lingua villosa nigra), but the tongue discoloration may appear white, brown, pink, or green. The color of the tongue depends both on the underlying condition plus the presence of any additional factors, such as the type of food consumed. Hairy tongue is caused by irritation of the surface of the tongue, leading to the elongation of the papillae that are normally present on the surface of the tongue along with an absence of shedding of superficial cells that is typically facilitated by toothbrushing or dietary factors. A number of different conditions can cause the development of hairy tongue.

Related Symptoms & Signs

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/21/2017
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