The appearance of the tongue is an important indicator of a person’s general health. As a rule, it should be pink, varying between a lighter and darker tone, with small bumps on its surface, the papillae.
Changes in their appearance, such as discoloration, changes in texture and the appearance of sores, can be the first symptoms of health problems. For example, vitamin deficiencies, allergies and a weakened immune system stand out.
The appearance of white spots on the tongue may indicate a fungal infection. Candida fungi, for example, usually live on the skin or mucous membranes. It can be caused by a reduction in the capabilities of the immune system due to stress or after the use of antibiotics, for example. The drugs kill bacteria that are important for the balance of the system, resulting in white plaques on the tongue.
“It’s a very white coating on the top, sides, and bottom of the tongue,” American dentist Oceana Akusa details to Shape. Stains can be alleviated by proper cleaning of the tongue and, in more severe cases, by the use of antifungal medications.
A healthy person’s tongue has small bumps on its surface known as taste buds. People who are deficient in vitamin B12 and iron may have a soft and shiny tongue.
This is because both are important nutrients for the production of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Its lack, in turn, impairs the oxygenation of the organs and the tongue, which leads to erosion of the nipples.
Chronic stress causes symptoms throughout the body, one of which is the spontaneous formation of sores on the cheeks, gums and tongue. Minor injuries can also result from stress-induced actions, such as biting the cheeks and tongue when clenching the teeth.
The sores can also be caused by an allergy to foods such as cheese, strawberries and coffee, or by hormonal changes during menopause. Although uncomfortable, the sores heal naturally in about two to six weeks.
The appearance of yellow spots on the tongue can be a sign of gastritis. One of the features of the disease is reduced salivation – so dead skin cells are shed less often, forming yellowish plaques on their surface.
A reddish, shiny-toned appearance with scattered white dots on the tongue is a sign of a food allergy, especially to certain fruits and vegetables. The condition is known as ‘strawberry tongue’.
A red tongue can also be caused by bacterial infections in the throat. When this happens, the bacteria release a toxin on the tongue, which leads to scarlet fever.