June 16, 2009

Swollen Tongue – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

When your entire tongue or part of it is either engorged or distended, you could be suffering from a swollen tongue. A swollen tongue could be due to a number of reasons including inflammation, trauma, allergy, infection, malignancy, genetic disorders, and other abnormal conditions.

There are several conditions that could cause you to get a swollen tongue and could call for medical intervention.
Some common ones include:

  • Trauma like eating piping hot food and scalding your tongue
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Biting your tongue
  • Use of dental appliances/procedures
  • Allergic reactions to food, insect bites, drugs and anaphylactic allergic reactions

Other underlying causes include the following.

  • A virus could cause you to get sores on your tongue, herpangina is one such virus. Infections such as strep infection, yeast infection, syphilis, or herpes simplex virus infection could also affect your tongue.
  • One of the symptoms of diseases like hypothrodism, Kawasaki disease, acromegaly, pernicious anemia, and amyloidosis is a swollen tongue.
  • A swollen tongue could also occur in people suffering from genetic disorders, particularly Buckwith-Wiedemann syndrome or Down’s syndrome.
  • Certain kinds of cancer like leukemia, tongue cancer, or neurofibromatosis could also cause a swollen tongue.
  • Chronic vitamin B3 deficiency and the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue or rhabdomylosis could also lead to this condition.

If a swollen tongue is accompanied with breathing difficulty, trouble while swallowing, and drooling, consult a health care provider immediately as it could be an indication of a much more serious health condition.

The symptoms that one experiences depends on the underlying condition, but the main ones to watch out for are as follows:

  • Lesions on the tongue
  • Tongue pain and inflammation of the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing and chewing food
  • Allergy symptoms that can arise are mild diarrhea, cough or vomiting, abdominal pain, or a runny nose

A swollen tongue could manifest along with other symptoms like fever, headache, burning sensation, general swelling, change in the color and texture of the tongue, goiter, soreness in the mouth and tongue, spitting blood due to trauma, weight gain, fatigue, puffy eyes, hair loss, dry skin, menstrual abnormalities, and depression.
Sometimes a swollen tongue could be a symptom of anaphylactic reaction or shock. Anaphylactic symptoms to look out for are coughing up blood, blue colored fingernails or lips, alteration in level of alertness, constricted throat, hives or rashes, swelling around the lips and eyes, trouble swallowing, low blood pressure, itchy mouth or throat, vomiting, breathing problems, and intense distress. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or call 911 immediately.

If the swelling on the tongue is not severe and you are not having any difficulty breathing or talking, you can try the following remedies for your tongue to ease the swelling and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe certain medications as part of your treatment plan.

  • Placing ice chips in your mouth will help reduce the swelling.
  • Once your tongue is swollen, swallowing anything (even your own saliva) will be a problem, so avoid salty and sour foods that activate the production of saliva.
  • Following a liquid diet will be easier on you and your tongue.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene to avoid complications.
  • Some yoga exercises could help decrease swelling and help you move your tongue easily. A recommended pose is the Lion Pose where you stick your tongue out, and vocalize the sound “Ahhh” like a roar of the lion; this will relax your tongue. Consult a yoga practitioner before you attempt any poses.

Do consult your doctor though to make sure that nothing serious is causing your tongue to swell.

Home remedies
Additionally, there are some natural treatment options that that can help.

  • Celery sticks are a handy food to keep close at hand as it helps relax the swelling on your tongue, owing to the high water content that it contains.
  • Add half a teaspoon of turmeric to warm water; gargle twice a day with this mixture to alleviate swelling and inflammation of the tongue.
  • Put half a teaspoon of sugar on your tongue to reduce the pain.
  • Combine aniseeds and fennel seeds to make a mouthwash. This should help relieve some of the pain while stimulating the salivary glands
  • Another mouthwash that you can prepare by yourself is by leaving mint leaves, rosemary and aniseeds in water overnight. Strain it in the morning, and use just the liquid as mouthwash. Mint helps to calm the swelling.
  • Remember to drink water regularly, but in small quantities, to help relieve your tongue.
  • Opt for soft foods and semi-solid foods till you are better. Foods that are an option are butter, broth, gravy, soups, stew and yoghurt.

If these remedies do not work for you, make sure you consult your doctor who should be able to help you.