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Why does the absence of papillae signal Hunter's glossitis?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Papillae are the small growths and bumps on the surfaces of your tongue. Papillae are normal features on the human tongue. For someone with Hunter's glossitis, however, papillae are usually absent. Instead, the tongue is swollen and has a smooth, glossy, red texture. The absence of papillae causes doctors to believe that you may have glossitis.

If your tongue lacks papillae, your doctor may suspect that you have Hunter's glossitis, often simply called glossitis. Look in a mirror and stick out your tongue. Do you see all those small bumps that cover its surface? Those are papillae and they are completely normal. A smooth, bump-free tongue, meanwhile, is a classic sign of glossitis. Other signs and symptoms include soreness, swelling, or a dark red color. Glossitis occurs when the tongue becomes inflamed, due to infections, allergic reactions, and injuries, among other causes.

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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.