Bumps on the back of the tongue can be a cause for concern. While most of these bumps are harmless and temporary, some may indicate underlying health issues. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore 14 common causes of bumps on the back of the tongue, their symptoms, and available treatment options.
What are Tongue Bumps?
The tongue is covered with small bumps called papillae. They are a normal part of the tongue’s anatomy. They contain taste buds and temperature sensors, which can help us taste and sense hot or cold foods.
Normally, these papillae are unnoticeable due to their consistent color and texture. However, certain conditions can cause them to become inflamed, leading to the appearance of bumps on the back of the tongue.
Inflamed papillae can appear raised or enlarged and may cause pain, soreness, or unusual sensitivity. These bumps can vary in size, color, and texture, depending on the underlying cause. Identifying the cause of tongue bumps is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment.
Symptoms That Accompany Tongue Bumps
In addition to the appearance of bumps on the back of the tongue, several accompanying symptoms may be present. These symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause but may include:
- Pain in the mouth or tongue when eating or swallowing
- Dry mouth
- White patches on the insides of the cheeks, tongue, or back of the throat
- Bleeding from the bumps
- Lump or swelling in the neck
- Malaise (general feeling of being unwell)
- Trouble speaking or moving the tongue
- Change or loss of taste
14 Causes of Bumps on the Back of the Tongue
1. Injury or Irritation
A tongue injury, such as unintentionally biting the tongue or consuming hot foods and drinks, can lead to the formation of bumps or rough patches. These bumps are usually temporary and resolve on their own. However, if the pain or swelling persists, it is advisable to seek medical advice.
2. Lie Bumps (Transient Lingual Papillitis)
Lie bumps, also known as transient lingual papillitis (TLP), are temporary inflammations of the papillae. The exact cause of lie bumps is unknown, but they may be influenced by hormonal, dietary, and stress-related factors. Fortunately, lie bumps typically resolve on their own without treatment.
3. Canker Sores
Canker sores are small ulcers that can occur anywhere in the mouth, including the back of the tongue. These ulcers may start with a tingling or burning sensation before a white sore appears. Various factors, such as eating acidic foods, vitamin deficiencies, prolonged stress, or smoking, can contribute to the development of canker sores.
4. Kawasaki Disease
Kawasaki disease is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects children. It can cause large red bumps to appear on the back of the tongue, along with other symptoms such as cracked lips, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and joint pain.
If left untreated, this disease can lead to serious complications. Treatment typically involves the administration of gamma globulin and aspirin.
5. Warts on the Tongue
While warts typically appear in different areas of the oral cavity, they can occasionally manifest on the tongue.
Warts in the mouth can appear as a cluster or a singular growth, with a raised and sometimes discolored appearance. Warts are usually painless and can be caused by an infected finger or through oral sex with an infected individual.
6. Natural Bumps
The tongue is covered in tiny bumps called papillae, which contain taste buds. These papillae are larger at the back of the tongue compared to the front.
Additionally, there are lingual tonsils, which are round masses of lymphatic tissue, located at the back of the tongue.
These natural bumps can appear enlarged or inflamed due to various factors such as sinus infections, spicy foods, or naturally large taste buds. In most cases, these bumps do not require medical intervention and will heal on their own.
Allergic reactions, particularly to medications or food, can cause bumps to appear on any part of the tongue. These bumps are usually larger at the back of the tongue and may be accompanied by swelling or welts on the face.
If the swelling is severe, medical attention should be sought to ensure proper breathing. Antihistamines can be used to treat these bumps, but monitoring for severe symptoms is essential.
8. Oral Thrush
Thrush is a fungal infection that can cause a white or yellow coating to appear on the tongue. Lesions of thrush may also develop on the palate, gums, or tonsils, and the tissue beneath the coating may be red and prone to bleeding.
Thrush lesions can be painful, affect taste, and multiply quickly. Treatment typically involves antifungal medications prescribed by a healthcare professional.
Leukoplakia is a condition characterized by thick, white lesions that can appear in the mouth, including on the back of the tongue, gums, and cheeks.
While these bumps are usually benign, they can potentially be precancerous. Red lesions known as erythroplakia and wrinkled patches called hairy leukoplakia can also occur.
It is important to monitor these bumps and seek medical attention if they become thick, hard, or sensitive to spicy food or heat.
10. Scarlet Fever
Scarlet fever, a bacterial infection, can cause bumps to appear on the mouth, often accompanied by a bright red tongue. This condition usually begins with a rash on the abdomen or chest that spreads throughout the body. Additional symptoms may include a high fever and a sore throat.
11. Cold Sores
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are typically found on the lips or the tip of the tongue. However, they can sometimes affect areas further back in the oral cavity, including the back of the tongue.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 and are characterized by small gray blisters with a red base. Prior to the appearance of the blisters, individuals may experience tingling, itching, or pain at the site of infection.
12. Viral or Bacterial Infections
Viral or bacterial infections can lead to the development of red or white swollen bumps on the back of the tongue.
A throat infection or a bacterial infection can cause the bumps to become larger, redder, and more painful. In some cases, these infections may also be accompanied by a sore throat and fever.
Glossitis is an inflammatory condition that causes the tongue to lose its papillae, resulting in a smooth, red, and irritated appearance.
Geographic tongue, a type of glossitis, causes irregular patches that move across the tongue over time. Nutrient or vitamin deficiencies, infections, allergies, hereditary factors, and hormonal imbalances can contribute to the development of glossitis.
While painless oral bumps are rarely malignant, any bump on the tongue carries a risk of being cancerous. Cancerous bumps on the tongue may be reddish or white and tend to bleed easily.
Other symptoms can include ear pain, recurrent sore throats, numbness, and difficulty swallowing or chewing. If these symptoms are present, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.
Home Remedies for Bumps on Back of Tongue
1. Baking Soda
Baking soda is an excellent home remedy for treating canker sores. Its healing properties can help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with the affected area of the tongue.
To use baking soda for canker sores, create a thick paste by mixing one teaspoon of baking soda with water.
Apply the paste to the affected area and leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing your mouth with water. Repeat this process twice a day until the sore has healed completely.
2. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a natural antiseptic and astringent that can help heal sore bumps on the back of the tongue. It contains antimicrobial properties that can reduce the size of cold sores.
To make a witch hazel mouthwash, mix one teaspoon of witch hazel with warm water. Add 1-2 drops of clove oil and use the mixture to gargle, ensuring that it reaches the back of the tongue and throat. Gargle twice a day to speed up the healing process.
3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that can combat candida yeast infections, which are responsible for oral thrush. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that coconut oil is as effective as fluconazole, a popular pharmaceutical drug for treating yeast infections.
To make an anti-fungal mouthwash, mix 1-2 drops of cinnamon oil with a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil.
Swish the mixture in your mouth for 20 minutes, then spit it out and brush your teeth as usual. Repeat daily until the oral thrush on your tongue has cleared.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw apple cider vinegar, with its antifungal and antibacterial properties, can also be used to treat oral thrush, canker sores, and cold sores.
Mix two teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar and half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Gargle with the mixture to get rid of bumps on the back of your tongue. Repeat this process 2-3 times a day until the bumps have disappeared.
5. Stress Management
Stress can exacerbate underlying causes of bumps on the back of the tongue, such as cold sores, canker sores, and candida infections.
Finding effective stress relief methods can help reduce the occurrence of these bumps. You can consider incorporating natural stress relief remedies into your daily routine, such as exercise, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or aromatherapy.
Tips for Preventing Tongue Bumps
Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential in preventing tongue bumps and associated complications. Here are some tips to help keep your tongue healthy:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Use a stainless steel tongue scraper to remove bacteria from the tongue
- Floss daily
- Schedule regular visits to the dentist (recommended twice a year)
- Avoid acidic foods that can irritate the tongue
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Minimize intake of sugary foods and beverages
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly after using medications such as steroids or inhalers
1. Can I pop the bumps on the back of my tongue?
It is not recommended to pop the bumps on the back of your tongue. Popping them can lead to further inflammation, pain, and potential infection. It’s best to let the bumps heal naturally or seek advice from a healthcare professional.
3. Are bumps on the back of the tongue contagious?
Bumps on the back of the tongue are not contagious. However, certain conditions that cause these bumps, such as oral herpes or strep throat, can be contagious. It is important to take necessary precautions and seek medical attention if needed.
3. When to Seek Medical Attention?
In most cases, bumps on the back of the tongue can be effectively treated at home using the remedies mentioned above. However, there are instances where medical attention may be necessary. You should consult a healthcare professional if:
- You have recurring sores on your tongue that do not heal properly.
- Canker sores or ulcers persist for more than two weeks.
- You experience difficulty eating or drinking due to the bumps on your tongue.
- The back of your tongue swells in a way that could indicate an allergic reaction.
- A growth or bump on your tongue does not respond to home treatments or continues to grow.