Glossitis is a condition in which the tongue is swollen and changes color, often making the surface of the tongue appear smooth.
See also: Geographic tongue
Glossitis is often a symptom of other conditions or problems, including:
At times, glossitis may be passed down in families and is not due to another disease or event.
Symptoms of glossitis may appear quickly or slowly over time. They include:
An examination by a dentist or health care provider shows:
Your health care provider may ask detailed questions about your medical history and lifestyle to find the cause of tongue inflammation if there was no obvious injury or other cause.
Blood tests may be done to rule out other medical conditions.
The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation. Most people do not need to go to the hospital for treatment unless tongue swelling is severe.
Glossitis usually responds well to treatment if the cause of inflammation is removed or treated. This disorder may be painless, or it may cause tongue and mouth discomfort. In some cases, glossitis may result in severe tongue swelling that blocks the airway.
Call your health care provider if:
Blockage of the airway is an emergency situation that needs immediate medical attention.
Good oral hygiene (thorough tooth brushing and flossing and regular professional cleaning and examination) may help prevent glossitis.
Tongue inflammation; Tongue infection; Smooth tongue; Glossodynia; Burning tongue syndrome
Reamy BV, Derby R, Bunt CW. Common tongue conditions in primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(5):627-634.
Mirowski GW, Mark LA. Oral disease and oral-cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 22.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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