Foreign object in the nose

What to do for a painful tongue?

Fact Checked

A painful tongue is typically triggered by something obvious and visible but there are a few less obvious causes that you have to be aware of that might require treatment. Once the pain is continuous and the individual has not accidentally bitten or scalded the tongue, a doctor or dentist should be consulted. There might be an underlying condition that requires treatment and the appropriate pain relief measures can be given while waiting for the condition to subside.

What are the usual causes?

Oral thrush

This is an infection in the mouth due to a fungus which leads to a coated or white tongue. In some cases, it is also the cause for a painful tongue.

Painful tongue
A doctor should be consulted if an individual is suspected with oral thrush. If the condition is not treated, the symptoms will persist and the mouth continues to be uncomfortable.

A doctor should be consulted if an individual is suspected with oral thrush. If the condition is not treated, the symptoms will persist and the mouth continues to be uncomfortable. Oral thrush is managed using antifungal medications that are taken for about a week. They are available in liquid or gel form that is applied directly within the mouth, although tablets or capsules can also be used.

Geographic tongue

This is a common condition on the tongue that results to irregular reddened patches that are surrounded by white lines which provides it with a map-like appearance. In some individuals, the red patches might feel sore or sensitive to certain beverages and foods.

After a few days, weeks or months, the position of the lines and patches change. They might even vanish or reemerge later on a different location on the tongue. In some individuals, the condition improves over time while in others, it can be persistent.

Aphthous mouth ulcers

The ulcers can lead to a painful tongue due to sores that can grow on any part of the mouth, particularly on the underside of the tongue. Most mouth ulcers are due to damage to the mouth from accidental biting on the tongue or eating something sharp and hard.

The ulcers that are recurrent might be linked to anxiety, stress, certain foods, hormonal changes and cessation of smoking. Most ulcers heal within a week or two and the pain can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications as well as avoiding spicy foods.

Uncommon causes

There are also uncommon causes of a painful tongue such as the following:

  • Viral infections such as from viruses that trigger cold sores and hand, foot and mouth disease.
  • Glossodynia or “burning mouth syndrome” causes a burning painful tongue especially the tip which is often present among those who have depression.
  • Vitamin deficiencies and anemia can lead to a sore tongue.
  • Median rhomboid glossitis causes the development of reddened, smooth, inflamed patch on the middle or back part of the tongue which might be due to a fungal infection.
  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia can lead to recurrent episodes of a painful tongue that is due to nerve irritation.
  • Pemphigus vulgaris is an uncommon yet serious condition that results to the development of sore blisters on the skin as well as nose, interior of the mouth, throat, genitals and anus.
  • Lichen planus is a long-standing skin issue that causes an itchy rash and can even affect the mouth which leads to a white, lace-like pattern and sore patches on the tongue.

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