Causes of large bumps on the back of a tongue

Updated February 21, 2017

Most people have experienced a sore, swollen taste bud at some point in their lives. They are painful, but hardly considered alarming. However, if you or someone you know has recently developed large bumps on the back of the tongue, you may be wondering what can cause them to appear.


According to the National Institutes of Health, allergies can cause welts, hives or swelling on all areas of the tongue, which may present as large bumps on the back of the tongue. The most common allergies that result in this type of reaction are food allergies and medicine allergies. Mild tongue swelling can normally be treated with antihistamines, but in some cases welts or hives on the tongue can make it difficult to breathe and can be life-threatening. In these cases, the National Institutes of Health recommends wearing a medical alert bracelet and carrying an adrenalin injecting device (often called an epi-pen) to use in case of emergency.


Bites or burns can cause large, painful and red bumps to appear on the back of the tongue. This is less common than similar injuries to the frontal portion of the tongue. In most cases, the injury will heal on its own, although antiseptic or saltwater mouth rinses can be used to help promote healing, according to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to avoid a bacterial infection.

Canker Sores

According to the National Institutes of Health, canker sores can appear anywhere on the mouth or tongue. They are usually noticed as a reddish bump with a white centre. Some canker sores can be brought on with injury, but others can simply appear with no known cause. Canker sores can be left to heal on their own, or a person may use a saltwater mouth rinse to help clean the sore and promote healing.


There are two kinds of warts that can appear in the mouth and on the tongue. The first type is verrucae vulgaris, which is an ordinary wart. According to the Merck Manuals, this type of wart is usually transmitted to the mouth by a person sucking on a finger that has warts. The second type of wart is a genital wart, often referred to as HPV or human papillomavirus. This type of wart is transmitted via oral sex on a person with active genital warts. Both types of warts appear as a bump with a soft, cauliflower-like appearance. They can be removed by a medical professional, although oral warts caused by HPV are likely to return.

Kawasaki Disease

According to the National Institutes of Health, Kawasaki disease is a rare condition affecting children. There is very little known about what causes this disease, although it is most commonly believed to be an autoimmune disorder. One of the recognisable symptoms of Kawasaki disease is raised red bumps on the back of the tongue, usually accompanied by a very red appearance on the entire tongue. Kawasaki disease is a life-threatening illness, and you should seek medical attention immediately if you suspect your child has this disease.

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About the Author

Sophie Stillwell has been writing professionally since 1992. She is published in "The Gorham Times" newspaper, "Private Colleges & Universities" magazine, on eHow and in several other publications. She has experience working as a paralegal, antiques dealer and neurobehavioral coach. Her writing topics frequently include frugal living, pets and health. Stillwell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Southern Maine.