Did you know that doctors can diagnose disease by looking at your tongue? Next time your GP tells you to open your mouth and say, “aaah…” he could tell if you have anaemia, dehydration or kidney problems
If you are keen and listen to your body, you will notice that it will always drop clues any time you feel unwell. When you touch your forehead and detect high fever, then you know there’s something wrong. Sometimes, headaches would be a sign of forthcoming tooth cavity.
However, there’s one body part that only few of us consider in determining their well being – the tongue. Many people wonder why doctors ask us to open our mouths, while telling us to say, “aaah….”
The truth is, medics can give a diagnosis based on the colour, coating, movement and texture of your tongue. The tongue is believed to be connected to many parts of the bodies and it is through these connections that the tongue mirrors our health.
“The tongue is richly supplied with blood vessels,” explains physician, Mercy Ndigona. “The constant supply of saliva in the mouth helps clean and keep bacteria off the tongue.
“The state of your tongue can reveal signs of anaemia, infections such as thrush, dehydration and kidney problems,” she says. “You know you are in perfect health if your tongue is pink,” Ndigona confirms.
“When your tongue moves freely and is gently moist with a light coating, then you have nothing to worry about.” If your tongue has a white coating or white spots, this is an indication of a yeast infection in the mouth.
“The spots which are generally thrush are common with people with weak immune systems,” she explains. “You’re more likely to spot them in infants and elderly people. The condition is also more likely to occur after taking antibiotics.”
Also, it could be a sign of leukoplakia – where the mouth cells grow rapidly. This condition is depicted by white patches on the tongue and inside the mouth. “Leukoplakia is common in people who abuse tobacco and in severe cases, it could be a sign of cancer.
When detected, see a physician or dentists for professional, monitoring.” If you are concerned about your overall well being, get a mirror, say, “aaah” and read through as Ndigona reveals changes that might be tell tale signs of a communicating tongue.
Red tongue If your tongue spots a strawberry-like appearance, then you know all is not well. “It could be a sign of vitamin B-12 and follic acid deficiency,” she says. The reddish spots that may form a whitish border could also be a sign of infection.
Mostly, this is followed by high fever in which case you most certainly need to see a doctor.” When the same condition is seen in an infant, and again accompanied by high fever, then this is what we call Kawasaki syndrome.
It is usually a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention,” says Ndigona. Black and hairy Just like hair on other parts of the body, the tongue has papillae (small projections) that grow throughout. The difference is, on the tongue, the papillae are somewhat invisible.
However, they tend to grow long in some people giving enough room to trap bacteria. “So when the bacteria grow, they take up some dark or black look which then may appear like hair,” she says.
The good news would be that this is not a common condition, it is more common with people who don’t observe oral hygiene. Sore and bumpy tongue It goes without saying that when your tongue has bumps you might have accidentally biten yourself.
Grinding your teeth can also irritate the sides of your tongue making it itch. Also, smoking is bound to irritate your tongue, making it sore, smoking might cause mouth cancer. When you discover a lump or sore on your tongue that prolongs beyond two weeks, this can be a serious indication of oral/mouth cancer,” says Ndigona.
“People should remember that mouth cancer during it’s early stages is not painful, so don’t assume the fact that its painless it might be nothing serious.”
The doctor advises that people should always check for these signs everyday as the brush. “Any discolouration, abnormal movements, sores and lumps should call for immediate medical attention,” she says.