A bright red tongue is a strong, almost unmistakable sign of an occuring infection and inflammation, especially when it’s accompanied by the appearance of red dots. But a red and shiny tongue without any coating points to an impaired ability of the body to regulate its own temperature (most commonly experienced by women in menopause). If only the tip of the tongue is red it can suggest an early stage of an infection or an intense psychological stress, while if only the sides of the tongue are red, that can indicate an irritation caused by a frequent consumption of spicy foods and alcohol, or an irritable bowel syndrom.
Some explanations even mention the red-sided tongue as the result of a prominent and long-lasting emotional turmoil characterized by anger and resentment.
Less common issues include:
- Glossitis: an inflammation of the tongue that happen on many different ways, including mechanical injuries and infections.
- Deficiencies: especially of vitamin B12, niacin and folic acid.
- Scarlet fever: an infective condition distinguished by a red rash covering the whole body and a bright red tongue.
- Toxic shock syndrome: a rare and life-threatening complication caused by the toxins of certain bacterial infections, most commonly associated with Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.
- Kawasaki syndrome: an inflammation of the medium and large artery walls, the causes of which are relatively unknown.
3. Purple and blue
The purple tongue is rare and has been found to indicate a long-standing inflammation and nutritional deficiencies. A slight purple hue can be also observed in women with difficult menstrual cycles or other types of chronic pain. It can also precede the development of a distinct blue color, which is considered a serious indicator of cyanosis, an insufficient oxygen supply caused by a blood disorder or issues with the cardiovascular or respiratory system – including an acute respiratory distress (such as airway obstruction), asthmatic attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congenital heart disease, pneumonia and poisoning.
A black and hairy tongue typically develops when the papillae grow too long, creating hair-like projections that collect an abnormal amount of debris and bacteria, resulting in a visible discoloration. Possible causes of this condition of the tongue are poor oral hygiene, changes in the normal bacteria/yeast population of the mouth after a prolonged antibiotic use, tobacco use, medications containing bismuth, mouthwashes that contain oxidizing agents, dry mouth and acute irritation.
Improve the health of your tongue
Even you’re not suffering from any disease of which the condition of your tongue is a symptom, you could still make an effort to keep your tongue clean and healthy – it will make your mouth taste better and possibly prevent further complications. How to do it?
- Regularly clean the tongue to prevent bacteria from growing, using special brushes or toothbrushes that have an attachment on the bottom side for this specific purpose.
- Scrape your tongue with a tongue-cleaner or any kind of scraper in a downward motion, but be careful with the amount of pressure. You can remove the bacteria a lot easier if you apply toothpaste on your tongue and neutralize it before you begin scraping. When you finish, rinse thoroughly with water.
- Drink green tea to maintain good health of the tongue – among other things, this drink is excellent at eliminating oral bacteria. You could have many benefits from drinking two cups of green tea daily, including a clean tongue and a fresher breath.