Glossitis is a problem in which the tongue is swollen and changes color, often making the surface of the tongue appear smooth. Geographic tongue is a type of glossitis.
Glossitis is often a symptom of other conditions, such as:
At times, glossitis may be passed down in families.
Symptoms of glossitis may come on quickly or develop over time. They include:
Rare symptoms or problems include
Your dentist or health care provider will do an exam to look for:
The health care provider may ask questions about your health history and lifestyle to help discover the cause of tongue inflammation.
You may need blood tests may be done to rule out other medical problems.
The goal of treatment is to reduce swelling and soreness. Most people do not need to go to the hospital unless the tongue is very swollen. Treatment may include:
Glossitis goes away with if the cause of problem is removed or treated.
Call your health care provider if:
Get emergency care right away if tongue swelling blocks the airway.
Good oral care (thorough tooth brushing and flossing and regular dental checkups) 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: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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