The tongue’s surface is covered in small projections known as papillae, which provide a rough texture and aid food tasting. These papillae are present from the base of the tongue to its tip and are usually unnoticed unless they become swollen or inflamed for various reasons. These reasons usually include viral or bacterial infections, allergic reactions, or injury.
Swollen papillae at the back of the tongue may interfere with the sense of taste, eating, and even speaking, depending on the cause. Fortunately, there are effective home remedies that can eliminate these bothersome bumps, such as rinsing with salt water, apple cider vinegar, or witch hazel.
This article will discuss 16 causes of bumps appearing on the tongue’s surface, specifically at the back of the throat. You will also discover simple yet effective homemade remedies to eliminate the underlying causes of tongue bumps.
16 Causes of Bumps on the Back of the Tongue
1. Natural Bumps
The papillae that contain the taste buds on the tongue form a V that leads to the back of the throat. There are also lingual tonsils, a round mass of lymphatic tissue at the back of the tongue that looks like a bump. These bumps are always at the back of the tongue, but different conditions may change their appearance.
Sinus infections are known to enlarge the papillae. Some people simply have naturally large taste buds. Sometimes eating spicy foods can inflame the taste buds as well.
Biting or burning your tongue can cause bumps to appear, but this is more likely to occur at the front of the tongue rather than the back. Sometimes brushing too hard with your toothbrush can irritate the tongue and cause bumps to appear.
In most cases, applying saltwater or antiseptic mouth rinse will help the bumps heal. If you leave the bumps alone, they will usually heal on their own. Your doctor can also prescribe a medication that will clear up the bumps if they stem from another infection.
Allergies, particularly those to medications or food, can cause bumps on any part of the tongue. These bumps will usually be larger toward the back of the tongue.
Bumps caused by an allergic reaction typically appear within a few minutes of contacting the irritated substance. You may also notice swelling or welts on the face.
Allergic reactions can cause mild to severe symptoms, so it is essential to monitor your condition closely to determine if you will require medical intervention. You can treat these bumps on the back of the tongue or swell with antihistamines, but if the swelling is severe, you may need medical attention to ensure you can breathe.
4. Canker Sores
Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are painful and small bumps that can appear on the back of the tongue or anywhere in the mouth. These sores are usually caused by stress, trauma, or certain foods.
5. Kawasaki Disease
This is an autoimmune disease that typically affects children. It causes red bumps that are fairly large to appear on the back of the tongue.
Kawasaki disease often causes cracked lips, fever, swollen lymph nodes, bloodshot eyes, joint pain, and tongue spots.
There is little known about this disease; however, it can lead to the tongue turning a very dark color and can be fatal if it is not treated. Doctors recommend gamma globulin and Aspirin as the first treatment.
6. Warts in the Mouth
Warts can appear in various areas of the mouth, including the tongue. Typically, warts in the mouth are caused by a common infection from placing an infected finger in the mouth. However, genital warts contracted from performing oral sex on someone with the infection can also cause oral warts.
When warts appear in the mouth, they usually form clusters or singular growths. These bumps will be raised and have a smooth, wrinkled, or spiky appearance. They may also have a slightly different color than the surrounding tissue, appearing red, pink, or whitish. While warts in the mouth should not be painful, it’s essential to address them with a healthcare professional if they persist.
7. Oral Thrush
Oral thrush is a fungal infection that can cause a white or yellow coating in the mouth. Lesions can appear on the palate, gums, tonsils, or tongue. Scratching away the coating may result in red tissue that is quick to bleed.
Typically, oral thrush appears on the inside of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, or gums. These lesions may be painful and can affect one’s ability to taste. It’s essential to seek treatment for oral thrush as the bumps may multiply and grow quickly, leading to discomfort.
Leukoplakia causes thick, white lesions to appear in the mouth, including raised bumps on the back of the tongue, gums, and cheeks. While these bumps are usually benign, they may be precancerous. In some cases, erythroplakia, red lesions, may also appear, and hairy leukoplakia, wrinkled patches on the side of the tongue, is common.
Leukoplakia patches can appear anywhere in the mouth and take a long time to form and become thick and hard. While these lesions are not typically painful, they may be sensitive to spicy foods or heat.
9. Scarlet Fever Bumps
Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that can cause bumps in the mouth and turn the tongue red. These bumps may become larger in size.
Typically, scarlet fever starts as a rash on the abdomen or chest that spreads across the body. Additional symptoms include a high fever and a sore throat.
10. Oral cancer
Oral cancer develops in the mouth, throat, or tongue. It can be caused by various factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, and exposure to certain viruses, such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
Symptoms of oral cancer can include mouth sores that do not heal, persistent pain in the mouth or throat, difficulty swallowing, and changes in speech. Treatment for oral cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
11. Transient Lingual Papillitis (Lie Bumps)
Transient lingual papillitis, commonly known as lie bumps, is characterized by small, painful bumps that appear suddenly on the tongue. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by irritation or inflammation of the taste buds.
No specific treatment is required for transient lingual papillitis (TLP), as it usually resolves on its own within a few days. However, if the bumps on the back of your tongue are causing discomfort or pain, you can try some home remedies to alleviate the symptoms.
Mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for 30 seconds. Repeat this 2-3 times daily to reduce inflammation and soothe the tongue. You can also Sip on cold fluids like water or milk to reduce swelling.
12. Cold sores
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). They usually appear as small, fluid-filled blisters on or around the lips and are highly contagious.
Cold sores can be painful and uncomfortable, and they often recur. You can take some Oral antiviral medications, such as valacyclovir and famciclovir. These medications can be beneficial for those with frequent or severe outbreaks.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can also help reduce pain and inflammation associated with cold sores. It is important to avoid triggers that can cause cold sore outbreaks, such as stress, sunlight, and certain foods.
There is some evidence to suggest that stress may contribute to the development of bumps on the back of the tongue. When you are under stress, your immune system may not function as well as it should, making you more susceptible to infections that can cause bumps on the tongue.
In addition, stress can also cause changes in hormone levels in the body, leading to an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the mouth. This can also contribute to the development of bumps on the tongue.
Managing stress through relaxation techniques or therapy may help reduce the risk of bumps and other oral health problems.
14. Trauma or Injury
Biting or burning the tongue can cause bumps, but they are more likely to occur at the front of the tongue than at the back. Brushing too hard with a toothbrush can also cause irritation and bumps to appear.
Applying salt water or an antiseptic mouth can help heal the bumps. If left alone, they usually heal on their own. If an infection causes the bumps, a doctor can prescribe medication.
15. Geographic Tongue
Geographic tongue is a harmless condition that causes irregular, smooth, red patches on the tongue. These patches can appear in different shapes and sizes, sometimes accompanied by bumps or ridges.
The exact cause of geographic tongue is unknown, but it is believed to be related to genetics, stress, or hormonal changes. There is no cure for the geographic tongue, but it can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers and topical medications.
16. Vitamin Deficiency
A deficiency in certain vitamins, such as B12 or folate, can also cause bumps on the back of the tongue. This is because these vitamins are essential for maintaining the health of the tongue and other oral tissues. Treatment for vitamin deficiency may involve dietary changes or supplements.
Home remedies for Bumps on Back of the Tongue
Bumps on the back of the tongue can be a source of discomfort and irritation. While medical attention may be necessary for severe cases, several home remedies may help alleviate the symptoms.
1. Saltwater gargle
Gargling with warm salt water can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle the solution for about 30 seconds before spitting it out.
The antibacterial properties of honey can help soothe the bumps on the tongue. Apply a small amount of honey directly onto the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing your mouth with warm water.
3. Aloe vera
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling and pain. Apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to the bumps on the tongue and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing your mouth with warm water.
Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic that can help reduce swelling and inflammation. Mix a teaspoon of turmeric with a glass of warm water and gargle the solution for about 30 seconds before spitting it out.
5. Peppermint oil
Peppermint oil has a cooling effect that can help relieve pain and discomfort. Apply a small amount of peppermint oil directly onto the bumps on the tongue and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing your mouth with warm water.
When to see a doctor?
The tongue is a crucial organ in the mouth that aids in speech, taste, and swallowing. In most cases, minor problems affecting the tongue can be addressed using natural home remedies. However, there are instances where bumps on the tongue may raise concern, and it is essential to seek professional medical advice.
It is advisable to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the following conditions:
- Recurring sores on your tongue that are not healing properly.
- Ulcers or canker sores that persist for more than two weeks.
- Difficulty eating or drinking due to bumps on the back of your tongue.
- The back of your tongue swells up, which could be a sign of an allergic reaction.
- A growth or bump on your tongue that does not subside with home remedies or continues to increase in size.
In conclusion, it is crucial to understand when to consult a physician for tongue-related issues. Seeking medical attention promptly can prevent the condition from escalating and help to alleviate any discomfort you may be experiencing.