Numb Tongue is a condition where the tongue feels numbness or tingling sensations. It is medically termed as paresthesia of the tongue. The most apparent cause of tingling (pins and needles) or numbness in the tongue can be attributed to damage of sensory receptors. There are four types of receptors which are described below.
- Thermoreceptors: These nerve endings are responsible for detecting cold and hot temperatures.
- Mechanoreceptors: Mechanical pressure is sensed by these receptors.
- Nocireceptors: They produce pain when the specific stimulus is received.
- Taste receptors: They identify, analyze, and distinguish between different flavors.
When the symptoms are not intolerable, they are classified into two types which are explained below.
- Paresthesia: This symptom is not severe in nature and bearable.
- Dysesthesia: This condition is excruciating and intolerable.
- Allergic reaction: Allergies cause a runny nose, sneezing, hives, and even anaphylaxis.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: It is a medical condition when a person suffers from persistent stress.
- A dental abscess: A tooth infection severe of an abscess in the tooth can cause intense pain, fever, swelling, and redness, etc.
- Canker sores: It starts with a tingling sensation, and gradually tiny red swellings appear which turns into ulcers eventually.
- Oral herpes: Fever blisters or cold sores are caused by this viral infection.
- Acute sinusitis: In this case, the sinuses are inflamed and thus, becoming soft and painful.
- Hyperventilation: When a person faces immense mental stress, the breathing becomes fast or light.
- Hypoglycemia: Decreased glucose levels in the bloodstream cause anxiety, irritation, increase in appetite, clammy skin, etc.
- Anemia: When the red blood cells of the human body become less in number, it causes dull skin and gums, weak nails, irritation, exhaustion, etc.
- Erythema multiforme: This potentially threatening medical condition is uncommon and causes blisters and rashes on the skin.
- Chemical burns: It causes blisters, burning sensation, pain, lack of breath, etc.
- Medical reaction: A person can experience sleepiness, seizures, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, indigestion, etc.
- Migraines: This widely reported headache causes sudden flashes or aura in eyesight, extreme pain, and numbness.
- Thermal burn in tongue or mouth: It causes blisters, pain, inability to experience flavors for some time and peeling skin.
- Panic attack: In this case, a person experiences a sudden intense feeling of fear.
- Teething: It irritates the desire to bite anything, fussy behavior, drooling and swollen gums in babies.
- A toothache: A person feels soreness or pain in and around the tooth.
- Thalassemia: This hereditary and rare blood disease cause anemia.
- Tetany: When the human body’s mineral balance is changed, a person feels convulsions in the face, hands, feet and painful cramps in the muscles.
- Sialolithiasis: Obstruction in the salivary vessel can cause pain and swelling, usually under the jaw or the tongue.
- Dental caries: These tiny cavities in teeth cause aching pain in the jaws and the teeth
- Fire or heat burns: Thermal burns can cause changes in the skin, blisters, swellings, and pain.
- Change in perception of taste
- Weakness in muscles
- Pain in the affected and proximate zones
- Loss or sudden change in eyesight or pain in the eyes
- Weakness in facial muscles
- Numbness in the affected and proximate zones
- Convulsions or seizures
Severe symptoms (might be potentially life-threatening)
- Changes in the degree of alertness, for instance, being unresponsive or losing consciousness
- Fecal incontinence, i.e., lack of ability for controlling stools
- Injury to the head
- Partial paralysis, i.e., lack of ability for moving a specific body part
- Urinary incontinence, i.e., lack of ability for controlling urine
- Voluntary movements or spasms which are not controllable
- Changes in mental state or sudden change of behavior; for instance, delusions, fatigue, delirium, confusion, and hallucinations
- Slurred or garbled speech or lack of ability for speaking
- Experiencing weakness or numbness of one side of the body
- Swelling of the face, tongue, and lips; experiencing difficulty while swallowing or breathing
- Coarseness or tightness in the throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Swelling of the mouth or lips
- Troubled breath or wheezing
- Cramps, stiffness, and twitches in muscles
- Tingling in toes and fingers and also around the mouth
- Blind spots
- Zigzag patterns
- Flashing lights
- Experiencing fatigue and nervousness
- Feeling a steep increase in the appetite level
- Confused about the mind
- Feeling irritation or grief
Burning mouth syndrome
- Dryness in the mouth
- Experiencing metal-like taste in the mouth
- Changes in the perception of taste
- Cramps in the muscles
- Tingling sensation in the feet, hands, and face
- Difficulty in seeing things
- Difficulty in walking
- Coma or loss of consciousness
- Loss of strength
- Loss of eyesight and blindness
- Consuming vitamin B12 supplements or foods enriched with vitamins, for instance, leafy vegetables and eggs
- Taking prescribed drugs for alcohol and tobacco abuse
- Consuming medicines for treating unknown causes like Raynaud’s phenomenon and migraine
- Taking antidotes in case of food toxicity
- Consuming warm fluids like soup, water, tea, etc.
- Avoiding foods that cause allergy
- Making sure not to consume rotten fish
- Not crossing the suggested daily limit of alcoholic drinks
- Becoming aware of the adverse effects caused by prescription drugs
- Selecting an efficient, qualified, and experienced surgeon when opting for dental procedures
When to visit a healthcare specialist?
When the numbness remains active for a prolonged period or any of the following symptoms are observed, visit a doctor immediately.
- Facial droop.
- Loss of eyesight, pain in the eyes, or sudden changes in sight.
- A strong headache.
- Uncontrollable movements, loss of balance, or fogginess in the head.
- Difficulty in understanding or a confused state of mind, hallucinations, loss of energy and delusions.
- Troubled speech.
- Numbness or weakness in the leg, arm, face or on one side of the body.
- Injury to the head.
- Urinary incontinence.
- Changes in the attention level.
Key points to remember for diagnosing the cause
- When did one first notice the tingling tongue?
- Does the patient have any other symptoms linked to numbness in the tongue?
- Has the person suffered from any head injuries or undergone oral surgery?
- Does the degree or level of tingling changes during the daytime, for instance, the sensation gets better or worse?
- What are the medications that one is consuming at present?
The most general causes of a tingling tongue can be traced back to a specific incident such as an allergic response, burn, or a dental procedure. If none of the above are found valid, then the patient should contemplate other symptoms which could be the signs of an undiagnosed disease. People should be aware of the warning signs (FAST) for a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack or TIA), especially if their near and dear ones carry an increased risk of such medical conditions.