Did you know that your tongue can warn you about certain health issues? Depending on the way your tongue looks, it can be used to diagnose any of a variety of issues, some of which can be severe. A few things to look for are:
- Bright red: This could mean a vitamin deficiency, mainly B12 and iron which are needed for the papillae on the tongue to grow. These minerals are common in meat, so vegetarians will often have this issue. Alternatively, a red tongue could be scarlet fever.
- Dark fuzz: The papillae on your tongue are probably just overgrown, giving your tongue a dark, fuzzy appearance. It’s generally quite harmless. Still, the papillae are more likely to hold onto bacteria and be discolored by food. This condition is generally caused by drinking dark teas and coffee, smoking, or poor oral hygiene.
- White coating: Your tongue has bacteria that combat yeast. If those bacteria are low in numbers, you may develop a yeast infection on your tongue, giving it a white, lumpy coating. This condition, known as oral thrush, usually occurs as a result of antibiotics, though it may also accompany uncontrolled diabetes, chemotherapy, and old age.
- Small white patches: Patches of white often indicate irritation. This causes an excessive growth of cells in the irritated area, a condition called leukoplakia. In some cases, it may develop into cancer, so if it doesn’t go away after a couple weeks, you should visit your dentist.
- Sores: Painful sores could just mean you’re under stress, but if they persist for more than two weeks, it could be cancerous. This can often occur in adults of any age, whether you’re young or getting up there in years.
- Burning sensation: An allergy to certain toothpastes may lead to a burning sensation in the tongue. Another cause may be hormonal changes, such as in postmenopausal individuals.