Your tongue is an important organ that helps you to taste, speak, chew and swallow. Sometimes, your tongue feels swollen. Usually, a puffy tongue can be more annoying than dangerous. The swelling of your tongue is because of different causes and self-limiting. However, if the discomfort is accompanied by difficulty in breathing, throat-tightness, dizziness or feeling faint, you have to consider this as a medical emergency.
Here are some reasons why you can have a swollen tongue
Your tongue gets injured from a broken tooth, accidental or compulsive biting, braces, false teeth and rough fillings. Hot and spicy foods is another reason for tongue injury. Tongue piercing causes a puffed up tongue, especially if you are allergic to the metal. Because the tongue has a rich blood supply, any injury heals well. You can rinse with warm salt water, suck on a ice cube or take an over the counter pain killer to ease the discomfort. Avoid hot and spicy foods, smoking and alcohol.
An over reaction of your body to an irritant is an allergy. Ingredients in foods like cow’s milk, nuts, fruits, shellfish, eggs, soy can cause allergic reactions in some of you. Insect bites and antibiotics like penicillin also be the culprits. Because of the reaction, fluid from your blood leaks into the tongue and other tissues and causes a swelling. This is called ‘Angioedema’. You can have other symptoms like swollen lips, face and throat, itchy red skin, dizziness and stomach ache. If your breathing becomes difficult, seek medical help. Otherwise, most symptoms can be controlled with an antihistamine and oral steroids.
Certain toothpastes, mouthwashes, alcohol, tobacco and spicy foods will act as irritants and can induce a reaction in you. However, the effects revert once you remove the offending ingredient. If you find that a specific component is the culprit, then avoid it in the future.
Bacterial can get into the tongue due to a cut from a broken tooth or tongue piercings. Also, fungal infections like oral thrush causes tongue swelling. Occasionally, STD’s ( Sexually Transmitted Disease ) like syphilis or gonorrhoea will bother your tongue. Viral infections like herpes and HPV will mess with your tongue. Your health care provider will prescribe medications to treat the conditions. Once the infection is under control, you will feel better.
Vitimin and mineral deficiency
Magnesium, Vit B and iron help to keep you tongue healthy. A deficiency in vitamin B12 and foliate will cause a swollen, red and beefy-tongue. Iron deficiency will make the tongue sore, smooth and pale. You can have other symptoms like dizziness when you stand, pale skin, tiredness and headache associated with the deficiencies. Increasing the intake of foods that are rich in these supplements like meat fish eggs, leafy vegetables, beans and lentils can relieve the symptoms.
Acid from the stomach that comes into your mouth can irritate the tongue and cause a swelling. You will notice an acidic or bitter taste, throat burning and a lump in your throat. Avoid acidic or spicy foods and drinks. Popping antacids, eating smaller and more frequent meals can help.
Various diseases, hormonal conditions and oral cancer can be the reason for a swollen tongue. The following disorders can be the culprits
- Acromegaly ( Hyperactive pituitary gland )
- Down’s syndrome
- Hereditary angioedema
- Oral neurofobroma
- Pernicious anemia
- Tongue cancer
- Oral neurofibroma
What are the other symptoms that can occur with a swollen tongue?
Your swollen tongue can be associated with other symptoms that are mild to moderate to severe life threatening conditions.
Burning tongue, Change in the texture or colour, fever, general edema, headache, tongue or mouth pain and soreness, sneezing or runny nose, mild cough, diarrhoea or vomiting and abdominal cramps are all the mild to moderate symptoms.
Serious, life threatening symptoms include
- Bluish colour of lips and fingernails
- Change in conciousness such as passing out or unresponsiveness
- Coughing blood
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Tightness in your throat
- Swelling around eyes and lips
- Rash or hives
- Intense distress
- Itching in throat or mouth
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea or vomitting
- Difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, laboured breathing, wheezing and choking.
If you have any of these associated symptoms, then its medical emergency. You have to seek immediate medical help.
A note: The swelling in the tongue and other tissues is called ‘Angeoedema’. This can lead to a life threatening condition called ‘Anaphylaxis’. Here your tongue and throat can puff up so much to block your airway.