Signs of an infected tongue

Updated April 17, 2017

In the medical community, an infected tongue is referred to as glossitis. Depending on the type of infection, the tongue will have various signs and symptoms. Tongue infections are usually unattractive to look at and can make the person self-conscious. Having a tongue infection can be both painful and problematic and interfere with a person's daily life. It can make it difficult to eat, drink and even communicate.


Swelling is a common side effect of an infected tongue. The National Library of Medicine reports that swelling may in turn cause problems with a person's speech, chewing and swallowing. This swelling can make it difficult for the person to get the proper nutrition or communicate effectively with another person. If left untreated, the tongue can become so swollen that it blocks the airway.

Smooth Tongue

An infected tongue can become smooth and the papillae (finger-like projections on the top of the tongue) may disappear. The tongue can also become increasingly sensitive and even painful. Some people report having a great deal of difficulty with eating and drinking.

Blotchy Tongue

There are cases of glossitis where the tongue may take on a blotchy look., In fact one condition called "geographic tongue" causes the tongue to literally look like a map. These blotchy areas may actually change locations on the tongue from day to day. The blotches may look red and raised, and many people report having burning pain.


In cases where an infection is caused by yeast or candidiasis, the tongue may exhibit creamy white lesions. The Mayo Clinic website reports that the tongue may also have red, bleeding areas and be very sensitive to the touch. In severe cases the lesions can actually move down the throat and oesophagus.


When an infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus I (HSV-1) the tongue may have blisters or sores all over the tongue. These can literally look like white polka dots or bull's-eyes across the tongue. This condition can cause a large amount of pain and the tongue to become swollen and irritated.

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About the Author

Kristie Jernigan is a health writer with over 17 years of experience as a medical social worker. She has worked mainly with the elderly population and with children. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and early childhood from East Tennessee State University and a Master of Science in health care administration and gerontology from the University of Phoenix.