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.
Other causes of sore tongue
- Bacterial Infections
- Dietary Irritants
- Fungal Infections
- Jaw Pain
- Viral Infections
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
19 Habits That Cause Bad Teeth
Is chewing ice bad for your teeth? How do you avoid rotten teeth? Learn how chewing ice, eating snacks, teeth grinding and other...
Dental (Oral) Health Quiz: Test Your Dental Hygiene IQ
Take the Dental Health Quiz to test your IQ of oral hygiene, cavities, and common tongue and gum diseases. This quiz covers...
Dental Images of Cavities, Dry Sockets, Gingivitis
Learn about dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and oral cancer. Explore procedures such as root canals,...
Head and Neck Cancer Quiz
Learn the facts about head and neck cancers.
Picture of Tongue
The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth. See a picture of the Tongue and learn more about the health topic.
Top Problems in Your Mouth
Learn about some of the most common problems in your mouth such as sores, oral cancer, TMJ, painful gums, bad breath and more.
Causes of Sore Tongue
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
Anemia is the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, therefore, decreased. There are several types of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia (the most common type), sickle cell anemia, vitamin B12 anemia, pernicious anemia, and aplastic anemia. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, malaise, hair loss, palpitations, menstruation, and medications. Treatment for anemia includes treating the underlying cause for the condition. Iron supplements, vitamin B12 injections, and certain medications may also be necessary.
Angina (Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis, and Treatment)
Angina is chest pain due to inadequate blood supply to the heart. Angina symptoms may include chest tightness, burning, squeezing, and aching. Coronary artery disease is the main cause of angina but there are other causes. Angina is diagnosed by taking the patient's medical history and performing tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), blood test, stress test, echocardiogram, cardiac CT scan, and heart catheterization. Treatment of angina usually includes lifestyle modification, medication, and sometimes, surgery. The risk of angina can be reduced by following a heart healthy lifestyle.
Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS)
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a condition that causes pain in the mouth. BMS may be caused by menopause, dry mouth or allergies. Signs and symptoms include tingling or numbness of the tip of the tongue, bitter or metallic taste, and dry or sore mouth. Treatment depends upon the cause of your burning mouth syndrome.
Burns (First Aid)
Burn types are based on their severity: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. First-degree burns are similar to a painful sunburn. The damage is more severe with second-degree burns, leading to blistering and more intense pain. The skin turns white and loses sensation with third degree burns. Burn treatment depends upon the burn location, total burn area, and intensity of the burn.
Canker sores are a common complaint, and are small ulcers on the inside of the mouth. Canker sores aren't contagious (as opposed to cold sores), and typically last for 10-14 days usually healing without scarring. A variety of things cause canker sores, for example, medications (aspirin, beta-blockers, NSAIDs, high blood pressure medication, and antibiotics); injury to the mouth from dental work, braces, or sports accidents; acidic foods; allergies; and diseases or conditions like celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and lupus. Canker sores can be cure with home remedies, and prescription and OTC topical and oral medication.
GERD (Acid Reflux, Heartburn)
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition in which the acidified liquid contents of the stomach backs up into the esophagus. The symptoms of uncomplicated GERD are: heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea. Effective treatment is available for most patients with GERD.
Hypothyroidism is any state in which thyroid hormone production is below normal. Normally, the rate of thyroid hormone production is controlled by the brain by the pituitary gland. Hypothyroidism is a very common condition and the symptoms of hypothyroidism are often subtle, but may include, constipation, memory loss, hair loss, and depression. There are a variety of causes of hypothyroidism, and treatment depends on the cause.
Leukoplakia is a white or gray patch that develops on the tongue or inside the cheek. Causes of Leukoplakia may include irritation from rough teeth fillings or crowns, chronic smoking, sun exposure to the lips, or HIV or AIDS.
Lichen planus is a common skin disease that features small, itchy pink or purple spots on the arms or legs. the abnormal areas on the skin in lichen planus are typically flat-topped (hence the term planus), itchy, and frequently have a polygonal or angular shape.
The term oral cancer includes cancer of the mouth (oral cavity) and the back of the mouth (oropharynx). Red and white patches inside the mouth, bleeding, loose teeth, pain upon swallowing, a lump in the neck, earache, and a sore on your lip or in your mouth that won't heal are all symptoms of oral cancer. Treatment for oral cancer depends upon the staging of the disease and usually involves surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Peptic Ulcer (Stomach Ulcer)
Peptic or stomach ulcers are ulcers are an ulcer in the lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. Ulcer formation is related to H. pylori bacteria in the stomach, use of anti-inflammatory medications, and cigarette smoking. Symptoms of peptic or stomach ulcers include abdominal burning or hunger pain, indigestion, and abdominal discomfort after meals. Treatment for stomach ulcers depends upon the cause.
Smoking (How to Quit Smoking)
Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or "passive smoke" also harm family members, coworkers, and others around smokers. There are a number of techniques available to assist people who want to quit smoking.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding. Bruxism may be caused by stress or anxiety and often happens during sleep. Symptoms and signs include jaw pain, headache, and abnormalities in your teeth. Treatment may involve practicing stress-management techniques, cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, avoiding gum chewing, training oneself not to grind the teeth, and wearing a mouth guard.
Thrush (Oral Candidiasis)
Thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by the Candida fungus. Symptoms of thrush include pain or difficulty swallowing, a feeling that food gets stuck in the throat, and fever.
There are a variety of diseases and conditions that can cause tongue problems, discoloration, and soreness. Though most tongue problems are not serious. Conditions such as leukoplakia, oral thrush, and oral lichen planus may cause a white tongue while Kawasaki syndrome, scarlet fever, and geographic tongue may cause the tongue to appear red. A black hairy tongue may be caused by overgrown papillae on the tongue. Canker sores, smoking, and trauma may cause soreness of the tongue.
A toothache is pain on or around a tooth. It may have a variety of causes, including a cavity, abscess, or even sinusitis. Toothache symptoms include pain, headache, earache, bad taste in the mouth, and gum swelling. Dental X-rays and other tests performed by a dentist are used to diagnose the cause of a toothache. Toothache treatment depends on the underlying cause. Taking proper care of the teeth and gums can help prevent toothache.
Oral Health Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter