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COVID Tongue: How Long Does It Last?

Jun 3, 2024Oral health

How Long Does It Last For COVID Tongue?

More investigation is needed to fully understand the symptoms of tongue related to COVID infection. Typically, these symptoms go away once the infection has been resolved. Treatment may be recommended for cases of persistent COVID tongue.

Symptoms of COVID tongue may appear days or weeks following the initial onset of the illness. In some uncommon instances, the symptom may disappear on its own only to reappear multiple times over the course of several months.


What is COVID tongue?

Some individuals may experience COVID tongue, a condition characterized by bumps, ulcers, swelling, and inflammation of the tongue, alongside the common symptoms of COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID tongue may include discoloration, patchiness, redness, and swelling on the top of the tongue. Individuals may notice bumps or open sores, also known as ulcers, on their tongue. Individuals with COVID tongue may experience additional symptoms such as a loss of taste and a burning sensation in their mouth.

A study conducted in 2021 identified COVID tongue as a possible symptom of COVID-19. There is still a significant amount of uncertainty surrounding this aspect of the virus, reflecting the ongoing mysteries that exist regarding COVID-19.

Case reports have identified COVID-19 tongue as a possible symptom, indicating the need for additional research to fully comprehend its importance.


What COVID tongue looks like

Individuals with COVID tongue may experience changes in their tongue size and texture, with a noticeable uneven surface. Individuals may notice deep cracks, known as fissures, on their tongue. Additionally, individuals may experience lesions on their lips and the inner lining of their cheeks.

The tongue and surrounding tissue can develop white or yellow patches, as well as ulcers. Irritation and inflammation of the tissue may result in red patches known as erythematous lesions.

Symptoms of geographic tongue, which include smooth red patches with a white border, have been reported in some individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, or may be induced by the virus itself.


What causes “COVID tongue?”

COVID tongue is a condition impacted by various factors, resulting in limited information available. Infections can affect the oral cavity, potentially complicating the identification of the cause of COVID tongue. This condition can arise from multiple factors, leading to challenges in understanding it completely. Several options are available:

  • A high number of angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) receptors on the tongue: Studies have indicated that SARS-CoV-2 primarily targets ACE2 receptors, leading to the development of COVID-19. These receptors are commonly located in cells on the tongue and may lead to inflammation if they are infected.
  • Oral herpes: Several studies suggests that inflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2 may potentially reactivate the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), leading to oral herpes. The symptoms of this condition are similar to those of COVID tongue, including:
    • mouth ulcers
    • redness
    • swelling
  • Dry mouth: Dry mouth commonly occurs in individuals with COVID-19 due to the use of antiviral drugs. In some cases, SARS-CoV-2 can damage the salivary glands, leading to decreased saliva production and resulting in dry mouth.
  • Weakened immune system: Both viral and bacterial infections have the potential to cause physiological changes in the body. Inflammation is a common response to fighting infection and can occur in different parts of the body, including the tongue.
  • Oral thrush: Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of harmful organisms in the mouth. This condition often occurs as a result of taking antiviral medications or having a weakened immune system. Common symptoms of oral thrush include:
    • white patches
    • swelling
    • redness

Other possible causes

There are multiple conditions and diseases that can present symptoms similar to those of COVID tongue, causing individuals to mistakenly think they have this particular condition. Conditions with symptoms similar to COVID tongue may include:

  • oral thrush
  • oral herpes
  • allergies
  • bacterial, fungal, or viral infection


What else can cause symptoms of the tongue?

Different types of viruses can affect the tongue, causing blisters and ulcers to develop. These sores can be mistaken for aphthous lesions associated with COVID-19. Certain factors, such as underlying illnesses, a weakened immune system, taking specific medications, or undergoing chemotherapy, may increase vulnerability to these viruses.

Tongue indentations have been observed in some individuals diagnosed with COVID, although it is important to consider that natural variations in tongue anatomy can also lead to similar indentations. Teeth grinding is a common cause of indentations along the sides of the tongue.


How many people get COVID tongue?

Currently, scientists are still unsure about the prevalence of COVID tongue. A small study found that some individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 may have experienced COVID tongue, but more research is needed to confirm these findings.

With increasing data collected from hospitals globally, we may gain a clearer understanding of the prevalence of COVID tongue.

Patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms can typically recover at home. However, the number of individuals in this category who later develop COVID tongue is still unknown. This is due to the fact that many of them recover without seeking medical assistance, leading to undocumented symptoms.

Medical treatment for mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 often includes the use of masks and telehealth for virtual appointments, which can make it challenging for healthcare providers to thoroughly examine and document any tongue irregularities.


How can “COVID tongue” be treated?

Treatment for ‘COVID tongue’ usually does not require any special care beyond the standard treatment for COVID. The majority of COVID symptoms typically improve on their own, although some may persist in certain cases.

Specialized treatment may be required for severe and unresponsive cases of COVID tongue to effectively address the oral issue. Possible treatments may include:

  • Using corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs is necessary to reduce tongue swelling.
  • Using mouthwash with antibacterial, antiviral, or antifungal properties can help with bumps, patches, and ulcers in the mouth.
  • Artificial saliva mouth rinses can help relieve dry mouth and promote healing of the tongue.
  • Low level laser technology for ulcer treatment.

There are several DIY treatments available to help manage symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Multivitamins
  • Multiminerals
  • Improved diet and lifestyle

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