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Monday, May 17, 2010


Glossitis is an abnormality of the tongue that results from inflammation.

Changes in the appearance of the tongue may be a primary tongue disorder, or it may be a symptom of other disorders. Glossitis occurs when there is acute or chronic inflammation of the tongue. It causes the tongue to swell and change color. Finger-like projections on the surface of the tongue (papillae) are lost, causing the tongue to appear smooth. Also see geographic tongue.

The causes of glossitis include:

* Bacterial or viral infections (including oral herpes simplex)
* Mechanical irritation or injury from burns, rough edges of teeth or dental appliances, or other trauma
* Exposure to irritants such as tobacco, alcohol, hot foods, or spices
* Allergic reaction to toothpaste, mouthwash, breath fresheners, dyes in candy, plastic in dentures or retainers, or certain blood-pressure medications (ACE inhibitors)
* Disorders such as iron deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia and other B-vitamin deficiencies, oral lichen planus, erythema multiform, aphthous ulcers, pemphigus vulgaris, syphilis, and others

Occasionally, glossitis can be inherited.

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation. Treatment usually does not require hospitalization unless tongue swelling is severe.

Good oral hygiene is necessary, including thorough tooth brushing at least twice a day, and flossing at least daily.

Corticosteroids such as prednisone may be given to reduce the inflammation of glossitis. For mild cases, topical applications (such as a prednisone mouth rinse that is not swallowed) may be recommended to avoid the side effects of swallowed or injected corticosteroids.

Antibiotics, antifungal medications, or other antimicrobials may be prescribed if the cause of glossitis is an infection. Anemia and nutritional deficiencies must be treated, often by dietary changes or other supplements. Avoid irritants (such as hot or spicy foods, alcohol, and tobacco) to minimize the discomfort.

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