Which diseases cause a change in the tongue?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Changes in the tongue can be a tip-off of disease. A pale, smooth, flattened, and sometimes-tender tongue can point to an iron or vitamin B12 deficiency, a hallmark of the common blood disorder iron-deficiency anemia. People with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis may notice tiny ulcers on the tongue. If the tongue looks like a geographic map with areas of dark and light, this may indicate an autoimmune disorder such as psoriasis or discoid lupus erythematosus. Recurrent episodes of white patches indicate thrush, an overgrowth of the yeast Candida, which may indicate diabetes. A strawberry-red, swollen tongue with a white coating and big red bumps is a symptom of Kawasaki disease.

This content originally appeared on
Oral cancer can cause white or red patches on your tongue and mouth and trigger a sore that won't heal. If you have HIV infection, you may get a condition called "hairy" leukoplakia, a precancerous lesion. Fuzzy white patches will form on and around your tongue. Jaundice, liver, or gallbladder diseases may cause yellowing of your tongue. People with Down Syndrome may also get scrotal tongue, a condition in which the tongue develops grooves down the middle. Oral thrush is a common condition that causes white, pink or red patches on your tongue that can spread throughout your mouth. It's important to talk to your dentist, doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist about any changes on your tongue.

Continue Learning about Healthy Tongue

How do I detoxify my tongue?
Jonathan B. Levine, DMDJonathan B. Levine, DMD
You can help get both your tongue and the rest of your body back in balance with a body cleansin...
More Answers
Why does my tongue have a white coating?
Jonathan B. Levine, DMDJonathan B. Levine, DMD
A normal tongue is pink, textured, and slightly moist. When you stick out your tongue, if you see a ...
More Answers
What are the benefits of tongue cleaning?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
Brushing your tongue helps keep your mouth healthy. This removes any excess plaque and odor causing ...
More Answers
How is tongue cleaning performed?
You can clean your tongue by gently brushing or scraping from the back of the tongue towards the...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.