You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your tongue. After all, why would you? It does its job, tasting things, letting you talk, and…well, that’s about it, right?
But a close examination of your tongue can reveal some important facts about your health. That’s why your doctor looks closely at your tongue when you’re in for a check-up.
Here are a few common indicators and what they mean.
1. Small patches of white usually indicate irritation.
This is also called leukoplakia, and it occurs due to excessive growth of cells in the mouth. That typically means that something’s irritating your tongue.
This isn’t a serious symptom ordinarily, but if it’s accompanied by pain, you may want to book an appointment with your dentist. Leukoplakia can be indicative of other illnesses, so while it’s nothing to obsess over, you shouldn’t ignore it either.
2. A bright red color can indicate inflammation.
Your tongue can turn bright red when it’s inflamed, and if the inflammation doesn’t go away within a few days, you’ll want to tell your doctor.
Inflammation can indicate anything from heart disease to the common cold, so don’t assume the worst. Nevertheless, this is one symptom that deserves medical consideration, especially if you experience pain to go along with the redness.
3. Wrinkles on the tongue can be…wrinkles.
Yes, your tongue wrinkles as you get older. It’s one of those aspects of aging that nobody talks about.
However, tongue wrinkles can also indicate dental issues, including serious infections. If you’re fairly young and you’re noticing this symptom, get it checked out.
4. Small patches with the consistency of cottage cheese are a sign of a weakened immune system.
This occurs due to oral thrush, a yeast infection that your immune system can typically stave off. It’s most common in babies, elderly people, and people who wear dentures.
The small patches can be an important symptom, as the presence of oral thrush can indicate an immune system disorder.
5. If you’ve got strange bumps and valleys on your tongue, that’s perfectly normal.
It’s called geographic tongue, and it occurs when taste buds disappear and grow abnormally. That sounds terrifying, but it’s actually completely normal. Although scientists aren’t sure what causes geographic tongue, they do know that it’s not associated with any serious health risks.
Nevertheless, the condition can be painful. If you’re suffering, tell your doctor; you may be able to get an antihistamine to relieve the pain.
6. Lesions on your tongue can be a serious issue.
If a lesion appears then disappears within a few days, it’s probably just a canker sore. In rare instances, canker sores can last up to two weeks, and although they’re painful and obnoxious, they’re not a serious health risk.
However, lesions that don’t disappear after a few weeks might be cancerous. A doctor can perform a biopsy to provide a diagnosis.
That brings us to an important point. Studying your tongue can provide some useful information about your health, but only a physician can diagnose medical conditions. If you believe that you’re experiencing unusual symptoms, schedule a visit to your primary care doctor as soon as possible.
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