Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The tongue has been recognized as an important diagnostic tool for millennia, dating back to ancient Chinese medicine. Even modern Western doctors will ask you to stick out your tongue when you go for a check-up. As discussed in this article, the color of your tongue, as well as the appearance of any bumps or lesions, can tell you a lot about your health. So find a mirror, stick out your tongue, and see if any of these common tongue indicators say anything about your health.
A White Tongue
One of the most common tongue issues that can signal larger health problems is a white coating, or white spots. Generally, the cause of a white tongue is bacterial. You may be suffering from an oral yeast infection, also known as thrush, or an infection of the throat, such as strep. Or, because your mouth is connected to your digestive system, a white tongue may indicate an overgrowth of bacteria in your gut.
While doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, oral lichen planus is another concern indicated by a white tongue. Experts believe that improving oral hygiene, staying away from cigarettes, and avoiding acidic and spicy foods might help get rid of the white coating if this is the case. A less common, but potentially serious, cause of a white coating on the tongue is leukoplakia, an excess of cell growth in the mouth that can sometimes act as a precursor to oral cancer.
A Bright Red Tongue
If your tongue is a bright cherry red rather than its usual pinkish hue, you may be suffering from a vitamin deficiency. A bright red tongue can indicate anemia, which means you should up your iron intake. Alternatively, you may be short on B vitamins, which you can pack into your diet with nuts, shellfish, and lean meats.
A Purple Tongue
In the body, purple and blue hues generally signal a lack of oxygen, which remains true when talking about your mouth and tongue. If your tongue is purple, your circulation may be off, or you may be suffering from bronchitis, asthma, or another lung issue. High cholesterol, including blockages and plaques in the arteries, may also cause your tongue to turn purple.
A Dry Tongue
There are a whole host of causes of a dry tongue and mouth, ranging from the minor to the serious. People who tend to breathe through their mouths, as well as smokers, have a tendency to wind up with tongues that feel dry and sticky. Many different medications, especially cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, also come with dry mouth as a common side effect. And of course, minor dehydration often first appears as a feeling of dryness on the tongue or in the mouth.
However, a dry mouth can also indicate some more dangerous issues that you might want to talk to your doctor about if you can’t find an immediate cause of your symptoms. A number of diseases, ranging from diabetes to Parkinson’s disease to HIV/AIDS, can cause dry mouth. Nerve damage stemming from injury or past surgeries can also play a role in the development of oral dryness. Finally, injuries affecting the salivary glands themselves also prevent the proper amount of moisture from being maintained in your mouth.