A wart is defined as a benign skin growth that appears on the top layer of the skin.
By “benign” we simply mean “non-cancerous”. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus that causes warts.
Warts come in many shapes and size (as in filiform warts) and can appear anywhere on the body- including your tongue.
Getting warts on the tongue isn’t a fun experience. Below, we’ll talk about the potential causes and treatment options.
Warts on Tongue: Overview
This condition is most commonly transmitted by kissing, as well as through oral-genital contact.
According to the data, men are just as likely to get it as women. It can also occur in any age group, as well as in any race.
People who are “immunocompromised” are said to be more susceptible to tongue warts. People who handle meat as a profession may also be at a higher risk.
Symptoms of Tongue Warts
These warts may appear in clusters or as individual units. It varies from person to person.
In some people, they cause a lot of discomfort and in others they are asymptomatic.
Unfortunately, due to their vulnerable location in the mouth, these warts are prone to becoming irritated and sore. This can make it difficult to speak, eat, and drink.
Most tongue warts take on the shape of cauliflower, although it will vary from person to person.
Once you notice that you have them, it’s important that you seek treatment as soon as possible.
What Causes Tongue Warts?
As we mentioned earlier, warts are caused by viruses- specifically, the human papillomavirus. Through sexual contact, the virus can spread from person to person.
The special characteristic about HPV is that it can lie dormant in the body for years before “flaring up”.
If you perform oral sex on someone who is infected, then you can get it this way. To date, there are many types of HPV that have been identified.
By avoiding unprotected sex, you’ll dramatically decrease your chances of getting warts on the tongue due to HPV.
How to Treat Warts on the Tongue
Currently, there’s no way to “cure” HPV. However, there are treatment options for removing the warts, including:
- Removal: The easiest way to deal with this issue is to simply get the warts removed by a doctor. It’s a painless procedure since local anesthetic is used (although your tongue might be sore for a few days). This isn’t considered a “cure” since the warts can grow back eventually.
- Topical Treatments: Depending on the size and location of the tongue warts, your doctor may opt for topical treatments. Not all topical treatments work at making the warts go away. If the topical treatment doesn’t work, then removal may be necessary.
- Injections: The doctor may inject specialized medicine into the wart that will make them shrink or disappear. Again, this isn’t 100% successful since A) It might not work, and B) The warts can always grow back.
There’s also something called cryotherapy which basically means freezing the abnormal cells. Laser therapy accomplishes the same thing.
Which treatment option is recommended for you? There’s no way to know until you speak with a doctor.
If you have many warts on your tongue, and they’re preventing you from eating/speaking, then a quick removal is probably better.
The Link Between HPV and Oral Cancer
The leading cause of oral cancer today is believed to be caused by HPV. Don’t worry- oral cancer isn’t a very common type of cancer.
Still, it’s important to know that having warts on your tongue due to HPV does increase your risk. Therefore, it’s vital that you follow the prevention tips listed above.
According to this article, about 80% of people in the United States have an HPV infection, and around 99% of those people will clear the infection without any further issues.
Most of them won’t even know they were infected.
Having warts on the tongue can be an annoying symptom to say the least. While there’s no cure for HPV, there are ways to treat the visual symptoms.
If you notice them on your tongue, don’t hesitate- go see a doctor. The sooner you get them taken care of, the less likely they’ll be to spread to other parts of your body or to other people.