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Tongues can tell a lot about your health – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 5/12/2015

OGDEN - Did your mother ever tell you to watch your tongue? How about your doctor?

Dr. Doug Anderson, an ear, nose and throat physician and surgeon at Ogden Clinic, said as a child, when he was told to watch his tongue, he interpreted it to mean he needed to be careful about the words he allowed to roll off the tip of his tongue. But now, as a physician, he finds himself telling his patients to watch their tongues for a different reason.

“I want them to learn that their tongue can tell them important information about their health,” Anderson said. “In Proverbs 15:4 we are told that a wholesome tongue is the tree of life. So for starters, you need to know what a wholesome or healthy tongue looks like.”

Anderson said a healthy tongue is pink and covered by conical shaped bumps or papilla. Once you know what your tongue should look like you can learn more about the language your tongue uses to tell you what is wrong with your health.

A red tongue, Anderson said, may indicate a vitamin B-12 or Folate deficiency.It can also indicate an infection such as Scarlet Fever, which causes the tongue to have a strawberry appearance, such as red colored covered with raised red dots. In addition, a strawberry-like appearance to the tongue can also indicate Kawasaki disease, which is seen in children under the age of five. If your tongue appears pale, swollen, smooth and is tender this might be a sign of anemia (low blood count).

The Cleveland Clinic also reports that white patches that are the consistency of cottage cheese could be oral thrush. Oral thrush is a yeast infection most commonly seen in infants, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems such as diabetics and those taking inhaled steroids. Leukoplakia is a condition which also leads to white patches on the tongue, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The condition, in which the cells in the mouth grow excessively, develops when the tongue has been irritated from things such as tobacco products. It can also be a precursor to cancer. A lump that doesn’t go away can also be a sign of oral cancer.

If your tongue is covered with a white exudate, especially if the exudate has the consistency of cottage cheese, this may be a sign of thrush which is a type of yeast infection.Thrush is more commonly seen in older people who wear dentures, infants, diabetics, and in those who may regularly use antibiotics or inhaled steroids.

Anderson said some tongues have round smooth red patches surrounded by raised white borders. These patches can change locations on the tongue from day to day and for this reason the condition is called geographic tongue.The exact cause is not known but it is not catching and not life threatening.

Also the lengths of your tongue’s papillae are important to watch, Anderson said. These papillae will continue to grow, like the hair on your head, and at times if they get long enough will start to harbor bacteria, which can cause a change in the color of your tongue.Sometimes hairy tongues can have a yellow-brown or even a black color. Hairy tongue is more commonly seen in people who have diabetes, who are taking antibiotics, are receiving chemotherapy or have poor oral hygiene.It also is more frequently seen in those who drink coffee, tea or use tobacco.

“Tongues that are dry may also indicate dehydration or possibly an autoimmune problem such as Sjogren’s disease,” Anderson said. “In Sjogren’s disease the body’s immune system attacks its own moisture producing glands.The tongue can, in addition to being dry, appear smooth and cracked.”

If your tongue has canker sores it may be a sign of stress, Anderson said, and a painful tongue may also be caused from chewing and accidently biting your tongue or from eating or drinking hot foods or liquids.

Anderson said if you notice changes that don’t go away after two weeks, see your doctor.