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Numb tongue: is it a sign of a stroke?

Jul 20, 2023Oral health

Is Numb tongue a sign of a stroke?

Tongue numbness or tingling may serve as an indication of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is also referred to as a ministroke. Paresthesia of the tongue, also known as numbness or tingling sensations, is often encountered in individuals who have incurred damage to their nervous system. Conversely, when there is a complete absence of feeling, it is medically referred to as anesthesia.

Complications arising from dental procedures or surgery, such as wisdom tooth extraction, implants, or root canal procedures have been noted to cause harm to the lingual nerve, which is responsible for the tongue sensory. Damage to the nervous system due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis, along with brain conditions like stroke, can lead to a sensation of numbness and tingling in the tongue. There are instances where these sensations may also affect the lips and/or jaws. Nerve damage can lead to an occurrence of a tingling sensation on the tongue, which may happen both before and after meals.


Why does your tongue feel numb?

Numbness is typically the consequence of nerve injury, compression, or irritation in the affected body part. This phenomenon can arise due to a branch of any of the nerves present in that specific body region. The tongue is an intricate structure of nerves and blood vessels that originate from higher regions of the face and brain. These delicate components branch out in diverse directions to provide an extensive network of circulatory supply and sensory perception throughout the tongue.

Moreover, the tongue serves as an initial point of contact between the external environment and the body by interacting with food, drink, or other substances. Thus, it acts as a vital instrument in safeguarding the body from harmful elements. The tongue has a high level of sensitivity, which enables it to engage in various defensive measures to safeguard the body, including inducing numbness.

Numerous factors can have an impact on the nerves and blood vessels present in the tongue, along with several triggers that activate a protective response from the tongue.

Inflammatory causes:

  • Allergic: In case of exposure to any food, chemical, or substance that is deemed harmful by your immune system, your tongue may undergo inflammation leading to a sensation of tingling and numbness.
  • Autoimmune: A range of inflammatory ailments and underlying medical conditions can elicit a self-attack by the body, which may cause damage to the nerves present in the tongue leading to numbness. Some examples of autoimmune diseases that could result in this condition are multiple sclerosis and lupus.
  • Infectious: Lyme disease and shingles are types of bacterial and viral infections that can cause inflammation and nerve damage leading to facial numbness and paralysis. The condition may also spread to the tongue and surrounding areas of the mouth, causing additional complications.
  • Cold sore: A lesion that is highly contagious and caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Environmental causes:

  • Vitamin Imbalance: Healthy nerve function is dependent on the intake of specific vitamins, namely vitamins D and B12. The lack of these vitamins can, over time, result in nerve injury or damage. It’s worth noting that excessive exposure to Vitamin B6 could cause a tingling sensation or numbness.
  • Mineral Imbalance: The body requires certain minerals, such as calcium, to ensure optimal performance. A deficiency of this mineral – hypocalcemia – can result in a tingling sensation around the mouth that may be similar to tongue numbness.
  • Allergic reaction: Consumption of certain foods and medications can lead to an allergic response resulting in swelling and numbing sensation of the tongue.

Systemic disease causes:

  • Central Nervous System: In the realm of medical concerns, experiencing a tingling or lack of sensation in the tongue or oral region can serve as an indicator for possible central nervous system conditions like impending migraines or strokes.
  • Metabolic: The way your body regulates glucose, known as hypoglycemia, can disrupt important daily processes and lead to dysfunction. This disruption can also impact the functionality of your nerves, potentially causing numbness and tingling in various parts of the body, including the tongue and mouth.
  • Vascular: A deficiency in blood circulation to the tongue due to restricted blood vessels can cause a loss of sensation in the tongue. There are certain medical conditions that can lead to this occurrence.
  • Stroke: The occurrence of a clot obstructing blood flow in the brain can trigger several symptoms including weakness, numbness, and paralysis on one side of the face or body. Such symptoms also manifest during a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke.
  • Bell’s palsy: Facial paralysis is a common symptom of Bell’s palsy, which often manifests abruptly and progresses rapidly within 48 hours. The condition results from irritation or inflammation of the facial nerve and tends to resolve gradually over a span of several weeks to months.

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