Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
A number of different conditions can result in pain and/or the presence of abnormalities, bumps, ulcers, or sores or spots on the tongue as well as symptoms like pain, swelling, or burning of the tongue. Problems with the tongue can result from infections, tumors, chronic medical conditions, trauma, or toxins. Inflammation of the tongue is medically known as glossitis. Pain in the tongue is known as glossodynia. Inflammation may occur on the sides of the tongue, the tip of the tongue, on the back of the tongue, or throughout the tongue. Because soreness or painful lesions on the tongue can have a wide variety of causes, treatment and outlook depend upon the particular condition that is responsible. Depending upon the exact cause, other symptoms and conditions can be associated with a sore tongue, including
Inflammation of the tongue can lead to damage of the taste buds, tiny sensors on the surface of the tongue. Some of the more common causes of sore or painful tongue include canker sores, cold sores, bite injuries, and burns.
In some cases, pain that originates in other sources (such as cardiac angina or problems with the teeth and/or jaws) can be experienced in the tongue, even though the tongue itself is normal. This is known as referred pain.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
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