Read below about swollen tongue, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen tongue from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Swollen Tongue Symptoms

Did that presentation you just gave sound a little funny as you said it? Why does it seem harder to eat? One thing is for sure, something in your mouth just does not feel right. A swollen tongue can be uncomfortable and make it hard to do all the things our mouths do best.

The tongue plays a big role in our daily lives. The tongue lets us taste, assists the mouth with chewing and swallowing, and we do not say that words "roll off our tongue" for nothing. A lot is impacted by a swollen tongue.

Check to see if you have the following swollen tongue symptoms:

  • Difficulty talking, eating, or swallowing
  • Extremely red tongue or pale tongue
  • Tongue lesions and/or bumps
  • Tongue pain and/or mouth soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Smoothness

The tongue is an organ made up of eight muscles and is covered with a mucous membrane. The upper surface of the tongue is covered in taste buds which detect sweet, bitter, salty, sour, spicy, and savory.

Symptoms of a swollen tongue may present themselves on their own or along with other issues in the body. Carefully considering all the symptoms surrounding a swollen tongue will help determine a cause and treatment.

Swollen Tongue Causes Overview

The causes of a swollen tongue are as varied as the symptoms. What we put in our mouths can often be the driving force behind a swollen tongue, but there are also other, and more serious, reasons for the swelling.

Environmental swollen tongue causes:

  • Trauma: Burning, biting, piercing, or otherwise injuring the tongue.
  • Irritation: Substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and spicy foods can irritate the tongue and cause swelling. Conditions like acid reflux can do the same.
  • Allergies: Reactions to food, medications, bee stings and other oral products can all cause swollen tongue symptoms.
  • Vitamin Imbalance: The lack of proper nutrients in your body, particularly vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and folate, can lead to a swollen tongue.

Inflammatory swollen tongue causes:

  • Infections: Bacterial infections of the tongue or other parts of the body can result in tongue swelling. Strep, syphilis, herpes, and yeast infections have all been known to cause a swollen tongue.

Systemic disease swollen tongue causes:

  • Cancer: Tongue cancer causes swelling as it spreads. Typically, cancer starts on one part of the tongue and swelling may be minimal, but persistent tongue swelling is typical with tongue cancer.
  • Metabolic: Disruptions to metabolic functions can cause tongue swelling. Pituitary gland disorders are an example of metabolic disorders.
  • Hereditary: Inherited disorders, such as Down syndrome, can affect many aspects of the body, including the tongue.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Swollen Tongue

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced swollen tongue. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Allergic Reaction (Not Life - Threatening)

    When the body encounters a harmful substance, it responds with inflammation and swelling that can be protective. In many individuals, the body responds this way to substances that are not normally harmful, like foods or pollen. This is the basis of allergy, or Type 1 Hypersensitivity.

    Symptoms should resolve in a matter of hours.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen face, swollen lips, lip numbness, hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center, lip redness
    Symptoms that never occur with allergic reaction (not life-threatening):
    shortness of breath, throat itching
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Swelling Caused by Use of an Ace Inhibitor

    ACE Inhibitors are drugs used to prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure and diabetes. In rare cases, these drugs can cause an allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

    With proper treatment and removal of the drug, prognosis is good.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, swollen face, trouble swallowing, swollen lips, swollen tongue
    Symptoms that never occur with swelling caused by use of an ace inhibitor:
    hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Chronic Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)

    A salivary duct stone is the most common disorder of the salivary glands (where you make spit). They can range in size from tiny particles to stones that are several centimeters in length.

    Symptoms last 26 days on average

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, spontaneous jaw pain, painful jaw swelling, painful face swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

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  5. 5.Gingivitis

    Gingivitis is the infection of the gums surrounding the teeth. It is caused by plaque and/or tartar that has built up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky layer of gunk made by food particles, mucus, and bacteria. After a while, plaque hardens to become tartar (or calculus). Plaque and tartar at the bottom of the teeth causes the gums to become irritated and infected.

    Great, with dental care and improvement in dental hygiene

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    bleeding gums, gum pain, gum swelling, gum redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Angioedema

    Angioedema is a condition which can cause swelling and puffiness of the face, mouth, tongue, hand or genitals. It is often related to an allergic reaction to food, medicines or insect bites.

    With treatment, this usually resolves in a few days.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), diarrhea, swollen face, hand swelling
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.Acute Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)

    A salivary duct stone is the most common disorder of the salivary glands (where you make spit). They can range in size from tiny particles to stones that are several centimeters in length.

    Symptoms last 26 days on average

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, painful face swelling, spontaneous jaw pain, painful jaw swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  8. 8.Nephrotic Syndrome

    Nephrotic syndrome is caused by different disorders that damage the kidneys. This damage leads to the release of too much protein in the urine, causing the body to swell.

    Varies by cause of Nephrotic Syndrome

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, weight gain, bilateral leg swelling
    Symptoms that never occur with nephrotic syndrome:
    cut on the foot, recent cut or wound, swollen ankle, swelling of one leg
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Anaphylaxis

    Anaphylaxis is the sudden onset of breathing or heart rate changes that are caused by a whole-body allergic reaction. This can be a deadly situation.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, headache, stomach bloating, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

Swollen Tongue Treatments and Relief

We have all sipped before we should have and burned our tongue, maybe even caused it to swell. Unfortunately, we also all know that the treatment typically involves simply waiting for the pain to subside. When a swollen tongue is more persistent, however, or there are other swollen tongue symptoms present, advanced treatment may be required.

Contacting your doctor is recommended when you experience the following swollen tongue symptoms:

  • Persistent swelling of over 10 days.
  • Extreme swelling
  • Problems breathing, swallowing, chewing, and speaking
  • Swelling associated with an allergic reaction
  • Swelling associated with an infection

It is recommended to contact emergency personnel if tongue swelling is preventing breathing or a blocked airway is imminent.

Often times, managing a swollen tongue can be done by taking steps to treat the underlying cause. There are several treatment alternatives that could be attempted without consulting a medical professional. More advanced issues with a swollen tongue will require more aggressive measures.

At-home swollen tongue treatments:

  • Lifestyle: Changes in diet can help reduce swelling caused by a variety of factors. Eliminating sour or spicy foods and tobacco can sometimes cure a swollen tongue. Minimizing chewing or instituting a liquid diet may also help.
  • Over-the-Counter Medications: NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce inflammation.

Professional swollen tongue treatments:

  • Prescription Medications: Advanced cases of tongue swelling may require medications prescribed by a doctor.
  • Advanced medical procedures: Surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy may be required to treat tongue cancer.

A swollen tongue can make it difficult to chew and talk, but, often times, is not a cause for serious concern. There is always the potential for a more significant cause, however, so it is important to monitor symptoms and ensure proper treatment for a swollen tongue.

FAQs About Swollen Tongue

Here are some frequently asked questions about swollen tongue.

Can allergies cause a swollen tongue?

Oral allergies can affect the mouth and tongue. Ppeople with allergies to foods like melons, pineapple, and apples can exhibit swollen tongues after consumption. Allergic reactions to certain medications, bee stings, or other oral products are also known to cause tongue swelling.

What does it mean when your tongue is swollen underneath?

Swelling beneath the tongue can be a sign of a salivary gland infection. The cause may be viral or from bacteria associated with smoking, chronic illness, or poor hydration. Treatment is often not required, but your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present.

Can dehydration cause a swollen tongue?

Dehydration is known to cause a swollen tongue. Inadequate fluids can result in swelling or scalloping of the tongue or a salivary gland infection. Replenishing fluids can help relieve symptoms. Continued hydration and good oral care will help prevent tongue swelling from dehydration in the future.

Why is my tongue scalloped?

Several causes are associated with scalloped tongues. Thyroid problems are known to cause tongue swelling to the point of scalloping. Dehydration may be another cause. It is important to consult your doctor if you experience a scalloped tongue, particularly if a thyroid problem is possible.

What vitamin deficiency causes a swollen tongue?

Vitamin B deficiencies can cause several symptoms of the tongue, including swelling. Other symptoms include tingling, soreness, and loss of taste. It is important to consult your doctor and treat a vitamin B deficiency to avoid long-term effects.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Tongue

  • Q.What part of your mouth is swollen?
  • Q.Do you have a rash?
  • Q.Are your symptoms worse while eating?
  • Q.Does your throat feel itchy or irritated?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our swollen tongue symptom checker to find out more.

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Swollen Tongue Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen tongue have also experienced:

    • 8% Sore Throat
    • 6% Tongue Pain
    • 3% Tongue Sore
  • People who have experienced swollen tongue had symptoms persist for:

    • 41% Less Than a Day
    • 38% Less Than a Week
    • 10% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced swollen tongue were most often matched with:

    • 46% Swelling Caused by Use of an Ace Inhibitor
    • 30% Allergic Reaction (Not Life - Threatening)
    • 23% Hypothyroidism
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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