What does YOUR tongue say about your health? White patches are a sign you are fighting an infection
Many of us rarely look at our tongues, but dentists say they are ‘windows’ into our body’s health.
Problems ranging from vitamin deficiencies, allergies, and a weak immune system can manifest first in the tongue — making it smooth, red, or allowing a fungal infection to emerge.
Last week, DailyMail.com revealed the potential health problems you should look out for in your nails. Now, let’s look at the conditions that often present symptoms on people’s tongues.
Pictured above are five conditions that can be detected on the tongue, along with their causes. Strawberry-red tongue (upper right) can also be caused by an infection, such as strep throat or a vitamin deficiency. A yellow tongue can also be a sign of gastritis. It is caused by the accumulation of dead skin cells on the tongue, possibly from a lack of saliva – as occurs in gastritis patients – or from not brushing regularly.
White patches on the tongue could be a sign of a fungal infection or thrush
White patches are a sign of a fungal infection
Many of us will have white patches on our tongue at some point in our lives. But did you know this could be a fungal infection?
Small amounts of Candida (a type of yeast) live on the skin and inside the body in the mouth, throat, intestines and — for women — the vagina.
It is harmless and often goes unnoticed.
But it may suddenly begin to grow uncontrollably, causing a white layer to appear on the tongue.
This happens when antibiotics or drugs that kill helpful bacteria are controlling the fungus, allowing it to grow quickly.
It can also be caused by chronic stress that weakens the immune system, which can also open the door for fungus to start growing.
Dr Uchenna Akosa, a dentist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told Shape: ‘It’s a very white coating. [on the top and sides of the tongue]and below [the tongue] it can be red and raw.’
Other symptoms include loss of taste and smell and pain when eating or swallowing.
Infections are easily treated using antifungal medications, which can be given in tablet or liquid form.
It is not contagious and people can help prevent it on the tongue by brushing twice a day.
According to the UK’s NHS health service, thrush is common in babies with 1 in 7 babies developing an infection. Newborns are more at risk because they don’t have a fully formed immune system yet.
Older adults who use dentures are also more at risk because they have weaker immune systems and yeast can get trapped underneath the dentures increasing the risk of developing this condition.
According to estimates from 2011, up to half of older adults in the hospital develop thrush because they have weaker immune systems.
Smooth blade? You are not consuming enough vitamins
A smooth tongue can be a warning sign of vitamin deficiency
The tongue can also warn of vitamin deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin B12 deficiency – both of which are important for making red blood cells in the body that carry oxygen to various organs.
Normally, the tongue has hundreds of small surface nodules called papillae, each containing several taste buds.
But when someone is deficient in vitamins, these papillae start to die and fall off the tongue.
Dr Mark Wolff, dentist at Penn Medicine in Pennsylvania, told Shape: ‘Suddenly, the tongue became glossy and lost its texture.
‘It was a defining moment indeed. In that respect, the tongue is an excellent location, there are a lot of nutrient-related conditions that appear right on the tongue.’
Lack of vitamin B12 and iron leads to fewer red blood cells in the body.,
This means less oxygen is transported to the organs, with the lack of oxygen in the tongue leading to the papillae starting to go to waste.
Other symptoms of a deficiency of these vitamins – which may be easier for patients to detect – include extreme fatigue, chest pain and pale skin.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adult men get about 8 milligrams (mg) of iron per day, while women should get 18 mg.
This can be achieved through eating about 7 turkey breasts per day for men or 14 turkey breasts per day for women.
People can avoid vitamin deficiencies by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
About 10 million people in the United States are iron deficient, while 6% of people are vitamin B12 deficient, estimates show.
Sores on the tongue, called canker sores, can be a sign of trauma or stress
Sores on your tongue can be caused by trauma or stress
Mouth sores are small, round, painful lesions that can form on the tongue, cheeks, or gums.
Dentists say the main cause of these sores – medically called aphthous ulcers – is damage to the mouth.
This can be from accidentally biting areas in the mouth, or even brushing those areas too hard.
But frequent mouth sores can also be a sign of stress.
Mental stress can cause people to bite their cheeks and tongue more often when they grind their teeth, meaning they have more sores.
Being stressed can also lead to indentations on the side or tip of the tongue from repeatedly pressing it against clenched teeth.
Other causes include allergies to foods like coffee, strawberries, and cheese, or even hormonal changes during menopause.
These sores are harmless and usually heal on their own without complications.
But doctors say people with sores that are unusually large, recurring, do not go away and make it difficult to eat and drink should see a doctor.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a small sore takes about one to two weeks to heal, and larger sores take up to six weeks.
Strawberry tongue can be caused by food allergies, infections or vitamin deficiency
How Strawberry Tongue Could Indicate Secret Allergies
If you’ve ever had a red tongue after eating a certain food, it could be a sign of an underlying allergy.
For many people with mild food allergies, their tongue becomes bright red – sometimes referred to as ‘strawberry tongue’.
It may also be painful and swollen due to allergies, or the sides of the mouth may also start to swell.
Dentists say this could indicate a child has a food allergy, especially to certain fruits and vegetables.
The immune system goes haywire and attacks substances it mistakes as foreign invaders causing the tongue to become red and inflamed.
Other causes of ‘strawberry tongue’ include a bacterial infection that develops when a person has strep throat.
In these cases, bacteria release toxins in the tongue that cause a red tongue – known as ‘scarlet fever’.
Again, patients are also likely to spot other symptoms of this infection including sore throat, fever, and a red rash on the skin.
Vitamin deficiencies, such as vitamin B-12 deficiency, can also lead to a red tongue.
Your tongue can turn yellow as dead skin cells accumulate on it. This is ‘harmless’ but tends to be a sign of poor oral hygiene
Yellow patches mean you’re not brushing your teeth properly…or it could be a sign of gastritis
Yellow tongue is caused by the accumulation of dead skin cells on the surface of the tongue, which are then broken down by bacteria, making them yellow.
Doctors say the buildup itself is usually ‘harmless’, but could be a sign of an underlying condition.
This includes gastritis, where the stomach lining becomes inflamed – usually from an infection.
When a person has gastritis, they are likely to produce less saliva, meaning dead skin cells are removed from the surface of the tongue less often.
When they build up, they can cause a ‘yellow tongue’ to appear.
However, patients may also note other symptoms of gastritis, such as pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. Gastritis accounts for about 2 million doctor visits each year, estimates show.
Doctors say a ‘yellow tongue’ can also be a sign that someone isn’t brushing their tongue enough – allowing dead cells to build up.
Everyone should brush their tongue twice a day, right after brushing their teeth. This should be done with a toothbrush.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, other causes of a yellow tongue include smoking, eating yellow foods, chewing tobacco, and even using certain types of mouthwash.
Other symptoms of a yellow tongue include bad breath, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, sore throat, and fever.
Gastritis eight per 1,000 people.
The picture above is the shape of a healthy tongue
What should a healthy tongue look like?
So… what does a healthy tongue really look like?
Doctors say it should be pink, varying from light to darker.
The tongue should also have many small bumps on the surface — containing taste buds.
Dr Daniel Allen told the Cleveland Clinic: ‘A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small nodules.
‘Any deviation from the normal shape of the tongue, or any pain, can be cause for concern.
They added: ‘People should check their tongue daily when brushing their teeth and tongue.
‘Any discoloration, lumps, sores or pain should be monitored and evaluated by a medical professional if they do not go away within two weeks’.
Source: | This article originally belonged to Dailymail.co.uk