Tongue color changes may indicate an underlying health condition, such as an infection. Medical conditions can also affect the shape and texture of the tongue. Here’s to learn more about what tongue color changes can mean and when to see a doctor.
What is healthy color and texture?
In general, a person has a pink tongue with a thin white coating. The shade of pink can be light or dark. A healthy tongue has many papillae on the top and sides. Papillae are small fleshy bumps that give the top of the tongue a coarse texture.
Different colors and textures
Underlying health conditions underlying can cause the tongue to take on different colors. Some of these issues resolve on their own, while others require treatment.
Tongue colors and possible medical issues that may result.
A buildup of keratin can cause the tongue to turn black. Keratin is a protein found in the skin, hair and nails.
Keratin can cause the tongue to turn black and hairy. A buildup can result from:
– poor oral hygiene
– medications, such as certain antibiotics
– tobacco use
– Drinking dark liquids: such as coffee or black tea, can also darken the tongue.
In rare cases, a dark tongue results from a medical condition more serious, such as diabetes or HIV.
If the tongue turns pale and develops white patches, this may be the result of an infection fungal, such as oral thrush. Oral thrush can be painful and cause thick, white or red patches to form on the tongue. A person may have difficulty swallowing or eating.
Another possible cause is leukoplakia. This condition causes white patches or patches to form on the tongue, and it often results from smoking. Also, the tongue may appear white due to lichen planus, a type of skin rash.
The tongue may turn purple in due to poor blood circulation or a heart problem. A purple tongue can also be a sign of Kawasaki disease. This is a rare but serious condition that causes blood vessels to become inflamed.
The tongue may also become red and bumpy , which may indicate vitamin B deficiency or scarlet fever. These changes can also occur as part of an allergic reaction to a drug or food. A red, bumpy tongue can also indicate glossitis, which is an inflammation of the tongue. In rare cases, it’s another sign of Kawasaki disease.
A condition called geographic tongue can lead to the formation of greyish-white spots on the tongue. White lines then develop between these spots, giving the tongue the appearance of a map. Eczema can also cause this color change. A study by 200 on 200 people with eczema revealed that 43, 5% of participants had gray or pale tongue.
Yellow tongue is usually due to the growth of bacteria. Poor oral hygiene and a dry mouth can each lead to an overgrowth of bacteria on the tongue. Additionally, the tongue may turn yellow before turning black and hairy. This happens when the taste buds enlarge, trapping bacteria on the surface of the tongue. In rare cases, more serious health conditions cause the tongue to turn yellow. A study by 2019 suggests that a yellow tongue may be a sign of diabetes. Another possible cause is jaundice.
When the tongue turns orange, the same factors that cause yellowing may be responsible, such as a poor oral hygiene or dry mouth. Certain antibiotics and foods can also turn the tongue orange, such as those high in beta-carotene. It is this compound that gives carrots their color.
The tongue may turn green due to a buildup of bacteria, and the causes can be the same as those of a yellow or white tongue. In some cases, a hairy or furry coat develops.
A blue tinge on the tongue may indicate a lack of oxygen in the blood. This can result from:
– lack of oxygen in the lungs
– blood diseases
– blood vessel disease
– kidney disease
– A low level of oxygen in the blood is serious and requires immediate medical attention.
Eczema is another possible cause of blue tongue.
When to see a doctor
Some color or shade changes are harmless. For example, the color of a person’s tongue may change when they drink a glass of red wine. See a doctor for changes in the color, shape, or size of the tongue that last more than a few days.
In addition, any change in the coating of the tongue may indicate an infection and require treatment. Also, it may be a good idea to consult a doctor in case of extreme changes in the moisture level of the mouth.
Adeyinka, A., & Kondamudi, NP (2019). Cyanosis.
Black hairy tongue. (2016).
Brushing and beyond: Key oral health tips for anyone with a smile . (nd).
Candida infections of the mouth, throat, and esophagus. (2019).
Geographic tongue. (200).
Hsu, P.-C., et al. (2019). The tongue features associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Kawasaki disease. (2020).
Yu, Z., et al. (2017). Objective research on tongue manifestation of patients with eczema.
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