What Causes an Itchy Tongue?

Most people are familiar with itching that occurs on the skin. However, an itchy tongue can be a new experience for many.

For some people, it’s an itch that doesn’t go away (even after scratching). In this article, we’ll show you all the potential causes.

Anatomy of The Tongue

Firstly, let’s briefly talk about the anatomy of the tongue. The tongue is a muscular organ that aids in digestion.

Specifically, it contains taste buds that allow you to detect if a food is sweet, bitter, sour, or salty.

It’s composed of two main parts: the pharyngeal part (at the back) and the oral part (the front).

Since the tongue has nerves and a blood supply, it’s susceptible to becoming itchy just like the surface of your skin.

Bottom Line: The tongue is a muscular organ that contains taste buds for helping you detect sweet, bitter, sour, or salty tastes.

What Causes an Itchy Tongue?

Here are some of the most common causes of an itchy tongue:

  • Allergic Reaction: When your tongue starts to itch, it could be that you’re experiencing an allergic reaction. Foods that can cause allergic reactions in some people include eggs, soy, milk, wheat, shellfish, and fish. Be on the lookout for these.
  • Contact Dermatitis: This is a condition in which your tongue has touched something that has triggered an inflammation response. The “trigger” can be anything- toothpaste, medications, etc. Once you find the root cause, then you can avoid it in the future.
  • Infection: Infections of all kinds- parasitic, viral, or bacterial- can lead to an itchy tongue. Typically, infections are associated with other symptoms like fever, joint pain, fatigue, and more. If you have these symptoms, go see a doctor.
  • Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS): People with burning mouth syndrome experience pain in the mouth. They often describe it as a “burning” or “scalding” feeling. In some people, BMS can lead to itchiness in the mouth and tongue.
  • Idiopathic: Idiopathic stands for “unknown origin”. Unfortunately, in some cases, doctors won’t know what’s causing your symptom. Fortunately, an itchy tongue is hardly a cause for concern and rarely, if ever, leads to anything serious.

As you can see, there are many potential causes for your symptom. You shouldn’t worry because they aren’t life-threatening.

For example, if you have an infection, then you can get it treated with antibiotics or anti-viral medicine.

Unfortunately for people with burning mouth syndrome, there are currently no cures (but treatment can help manage the symptoms).

Bottom Line: Your symptom can be due to allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, infections, or burning mouth syndrome (BMS).

Burning Mouth Syndrome

itchy tongueBurning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a condition in which someone feels pain in the mouth 24/7. The pain can last for a few days up to a few months (or longer).

Unfortunately, doctors and researchers don’t know what causes it. This makes it difficult to diagnose. Also, no specific treatment works for everyone.

The only thing doctors can do is prescribe medicine that can help you deal with the discomfort. There are two types of BMS.

The first is primary BMS, which is believed to be caused by damaged tongue nerves.

The other is secondary BMS, which is believed to be caused by hormonal changes, allergic reactions, nutritional deficiencies, and more.

Bottom Line: Your symptom could be due to burning mouth syndrome (BMS). BMS isn’t totally understood and no cure exists for it.

How to Treat an Itchy Tongue

Here are the most common treatment options for an itchy tongue:

  • Antibiotics: If it’s caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Anti-Viral Medication: If it’s caused by a viral medication.
  • Anti-Allergy Medicine: If it’s caused by allergies.
  • Epinephrine: If it’s caused by a severe food allergy (like nut allergies for example).
  • Corticosteroids: Helps reduce inflammation and may calm the itchiness.
  • Antiseptic Mouthwash: In some people helps make the symptom go away.

Keep in mind that these treatment options are rarely needed. Why? Because it usually goes away on its own.

If it persists, then you may want to try the at-home remedies mentioned below.

Bottom Line: Common medical treatments include antibiotics, anti-viral medication, corticosteroids, anti-allergy medicine, and antiseptic mouthwash.

Home Remedies

Sometimes, medical interventions won’t work at making your itchy tongue go away.

When that happens, it might be a good idea to try some home remedies. Here are a few that we recommended:

  • Gargling Salt Water: Oral infections can cause strange symptoms in the mouth. By gargling salt water daily, you may help the infection go away quicker.
  • Honey: Honey is well-known for its anti-bacterial properties. If your symptom is due to a bacterial infection, then honey might help.
  • Mint Leaves: Some patients have reported a reduction in tongue itchiness by chewing on mint leaves. It’s not a 100% guarantee, though.
  • Butterbur Herb: If you have oral inflammation, then the natural anti-inflammatory compounds in butterbur herb should help.
  • Lavender Oil: Like mint leaves, some people find relief with lavender oil. Experiment and see which works best for you.

If all else fails, try chewing on some ice chips. It won’t make your itchy tongue go away, but it can reduce the intensity.

Sometimes you’ll just need to wait it out, however long that may be.

Bottom Line: Common home remedies include gargling salt water, honey, chewing on mint leaves, butterbur herb, and lavender oil.
Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

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