Glossitis refers to inflammation of the tongue, wherein it displays prominent swelling similar to ulcers on the tongue, apart from unusual colour changes and abnormal texture on its surface. In grave instances, the tongue becomes vastly enlarged, making it difficult to speak clearly and swallow food.
The tongue is a vital muscular organ located inside the mouth, composed of a moist, pink tissue known as the mucosa, that works to help chew and consume food. It also has tiny bumps on the surface termed papillae which contain taste buds that help distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter and other palates. Owing to this function, when glossitis occurs, the papillae may diminish leading to minor instances of ageusia i.e. loss of sense of taste.
Also Read: Ageusia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Types Of Glossitis:
Glossitis is categorised into three distinct types – acute, chronic, atrophic, based on the typical signs.
This type of tongue inflammation develops suddenly and invariably results in extreme symptoms, with the muscle tissues becoming massive in size, impeding the ability to speak normally or ingest any food or drink.
Underlying health conditions like viral fevers prompt chronic glossitis, wherein the swelling in the tongue happens repeatedly, with mostly minor symptoms.
Also referred to as Hunter Glossitis, atrophic glossitis gives rise to loss of papillae on the tongue’s surface that make it ridged and uneven, which alters its colour, texture, leading to a characteristic smooth, glossy appearance.
Also Read: Tongue Colour: It Reveals Secrets About Your Health
Glossitis is triggered due to various factors, including allergies to specific foods or medications, viral ailments like Herpes that hamper immune system functioning, yeast infections or a deficiency of iron, vitamin B12 in blood. Sudden or severe injuries to the jawbone and mouth also result in glossitis. At times, wearing braces or dentures which aggravate the tissues within the mouth could lead to tongue inflammation.
The indications of glossitis vary from person to person depending upon the cause and severity of the condition and consist of:
- A swollen tongue
- Modified exterior lining of the tongue due to the disappearance of papillae
- Aberrant colour changes in the tongue from normal light pink to red or purple
- Difficulty in eating food and consuming drinks
- Hindrance in speaking normally
- Inability to swallow meals
- Irritation, burning and itchy sensations in the tongue
- Moderate to severe pain and uneasiness in the tongue
- Temporary loss of sense of taste
The diagnosis for glossitis involves the doctor recording the complete medical history of the patient t gauge if they have any underlying illness or infection, or have endured any injury to the mouth, which may be the cause of tongue inflammation.
A thorough external physical examination of the tongue is carried out by the physician, wherein the patient is asked to open the oral cavity wide apart and a bright light source from a torch is shined on it, to examine the colour, structure, papillae and spot if there are any blisters, odd lumps or ulcers on the surface.
To determine if glossitis is triggered by nutritional deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, or viral/yeast infections, a swab of saliva and blood samples are collected from the patient and analysed for the presence of pathogenic microbes.
Specific treatment measures are recommended for glossitis, based on the exact cause of tongue inflammation. If viral or yeast infections are instigating swelling up of the tongue, prescription antiviral medicines or antifungal drugs are given, to combat the diseases, lessen pain and restore normal functioning of the tongue. Furthermore, iron or vitamin B12 supplements are advised to be taken to overcome nutritional deficiencies, apart from healthy diet tips to incorporate ample amounts of these key components in regular meals, to avert recurring shortages.
Foods and medications that prompt allergic reactions and result in glossitis are identified and the patient is advised to steer clear of consuming the same, to avoid further irritation and swelling of the tongue. Proper oral hygiene practices of brushing, flossing, cleaning the tongue and using mouthwashes are also recommended, to prevent bacteria, viruses, fungi from residing in the mouth and inducing recurrent infection and subsequent tongue inflammation.