April 12, 2024/Daily Health Stories

Can your Tongue Tell you about your Health?

We’ve all heard it’s a good idea to regularly check our skin for anything suspicious, but what about our tongues? A primary care doctor goes over what our tongues can tell us about our overall health.

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CLEVELAND - We’ve all heard it’s a good idea to regularly check our skin for anything suspicious, but what about our tongues?

It turns out they can give us some insight into our overall health.

So, what does a normal tongue typically look like?

“Most normal tongue colors are pink, though shades may vary from a lighter pink to a darker pink. You'll see papillae and taste buds, and those are the little bumps. Those belong on the tongue and are part of the taste receptors and how we enjoy our food,” explained Marianne Sumego, MD, a primary care physician with Cleveland Clinic.

When it comes to tongue color, Dr. Sumego said any color aside from pink may signal something’s wrong.

A yellow tongue can indicate poor oral hygiene, while a red tongue may mean you have a vitamin deficiency.

Meanwhile, a blue tongue can develop due to something as serious as a lack of oxygen in your blood.

With all this in mind, it’s important to seek a medical provider if you notice any changes in your tongue’s color.

Dr. Sumego said it’s also important to watch for lesions on the tongue.

“Check for any lesions on the tongue, particularly those that are plaque-like, or smooth patches. One is called leukoplakia, which causes painless white or gray patches to develop,” Dr. Sumego said. “There's also erythroplakia, which causes red lesions. If those aren't healing or changing, then consult your physician or dentist.”

Dr. Sumego stresses it’s best to check your tongue regularly and follow up on anything that looks unusual.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. Cleveland Clinic is consistently recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for its expertise and care. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 81,000 employees worldwide are more than 5,743 salaried physicians and researchers, and 20,160 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,690-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 23 hospitals, 276 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2023, there were 13.7 million outpatient encounters, 323,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 301,000 surgeries and procedures throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 132 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/CleClinicNews. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.

Editor’s Note: Cleveland Clinic News Service is available to provide broadcast-quality interviews and B-roll upon request.

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