Almost a year since the WHO declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic on March 11, 2020, a lot of factors regarding the coronavirus infection have been clearly determined, with the general public possessing a clear understanding of its causes, symptoms. People have, by now, adapted to living in times of the new normal involving social distancing, face masks, hand sanitisers, even as COVID-19 cases continue to be reported daily. Vaccines that can effectively prevent COVID-19 have been rolled out as well, with large-scale immunization drives currently on in full swing in several nations around the world, including India.
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It is common knowledge that COVID-19 is primarily an infectious viral disease, that spreads from a sick person to a healthy individual by means of viral droplets transmitted when infected people cough, sneeze or exhale in close contact. Chiefly, it affects the upper respiratory tract and in severe instances, presents breathing problems and damages lung functions. The common symptoms of coronavirus disease include fever, cough, sore throat, sometimes accompanied by headaches and fatigue. However, doctors and scientists from across the globe who are treating and studying COVID-19 patients, are increasingly observing new symptoms being displayed by those infected with the coronavirus. One such additional indication that was initially publicised in January 2021, by a post on Twitter by Professor Tim Spector, a renowned British epidemiologist at King’s College in London, is COVID Tongue.
Key Details Regarding COVID Tongue - A Rare New Symptom Of Coronavirus Disease:
What Is COVID Tongue?
COVID Tongue refers to a recently recognized but relatively rare, peculiar oral symptom seen in coronavirus patients. It is characterized by inflammation, ulcers in the tongue of the afflicted person, besides discolouration entailing normal pink zones and infected white or yellow patches, as well as a furry appearance on the surface.
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Moreover, in certain cases, COVID Tongue presents in the form of painful rashes, prominent dents along the sides of the tongue and loss of structures known as papillae. These are tiny projections that present a rough surface on the tongue and are responsible for the sense of taste.
Why Does COVID-19 Affect The Tongue?
Medical researchers and healthcare professionals have deduced the reason behind the occurrence of COVID Tongue in some patients with coronavirus infection, to be the ACE 2 protein. ACE 2 i.e. angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, is a surface protein that is inherently found in high volumes on the surface of the tongue in all humans beings.
The ACE 2 protein is also a primary attachment site for SARS-CoV-2 – the novel coronavirus strain or, simply put, the virus that triggers COVID-19 infection. The viral strain penetrates cells all over the body through these attachment sites and the tongue contains vast amounts of this ACE 2 protein. Hence, it is most likely due to this cause that, in a small number of patients, COVID-19 infection manifests in the form of COVID Tongue.
How Can COVID Tongue Be Treated?
Nevertheless, if a person notices only these attributes of COVID Tongue, it does not always or automatically imply that they have been affected by the coronavirus. Swelling, ulcers, sores and dark patches on the tongue could also be owing to another viral, or bacterial/fungal infection, or even from eating very spicy, acidic, irritating foods. The important thing to keep in mind is to not panic upon identifying signals of COVID Tongue, but to report it promptly to a medical expert.
Usually, COVID Tongue occurs alongside other main symptoms of coronavirus infection, such as fever, cough, breathing difficulties, loss of sense of smell, taste and sore throat. It is thus advised to consult a physician or doctor as soon as signs of COVID Tongue are observed and get tested for the coronavirus infection. In case the person tests positive, then depending on the severity of symptoms, either treatment in the hospital, or prescription medicines and quarantine at home for 14 days is recommended, to effectively resolve COVID-19 infection in the patient.