The mouth and throat are very important parts of the body. Every nutrient that our body needs goes in through the mouth. The teeth and tongue have important roles to play. Our most precious possession, our vocal cords are present in the throat. Without the vocal cords and tongue, we wouldn’t be able to articulate our words and talk. Because of this, diseases that effect our throat and tongue can be very painful and frustrating. White tongue sore throat is one of the more common ones, specially during the winters.
There are many medical conditions that can be associated with white tongue sore throat. Most of them are not serious or life threatening but in extreme circumstances, may cause cancer of the mouth and throat. While the chances of that happening are low, it is important to rule out conditions that can cause cancer.
Causes Of White Tongue Sore Throat
White tongue, which is also called a coated tongue, usually occurs when the surface of the tongue is colonized with bacteria or fungi. The dead cells of the tongue become trapped between the small nodules on the back of the tongue giving it the white color. These may also cause bumps on back of tongue and sore throat.
Some of the common causes of white tongue sore throat include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Tobacco chewing
- Dry mouth
- Mouth breathing
- Artificial dentures
- Yeast infection (also known as oral thrush or candidiasis)
- Use of medicines that lower immunity to oral infections
Other more serious conditions that can cause white tongue sore throat include:
- Oral lichen planus
- Tongue cancer
Sore throat is a symptom that is characterized by pain, scratchiness or irritation in the throat. A sore throat can be the first sign of a common cold, or may be even something more serious like strep throat. Most commonly, a sore throat occurs because of a viral infection but the more dangerous “strep throat” is caused by a more contagious bacterial infection called streptococcal pyogenes and can affect children of school going age. Strep throat may lead to complications, if not treated properly with antibiotics.
Bumps On Back Of Tongue
Bumps on back of tongue are natural and are due to the anatomical structures known as papaillae. Sometimes theses papillae may look enlarged and look like large bumps on the back of the tongue. A lot of times this enlargement of the bumps on back of tongue accompanies the occurrence of white tongue sore throat.
The causes for the bumps on back of tongue may include:
- Sore Throat
- Canker sores
- Kawasaki disease
- Oral thrush
- Scarlet fever
The oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by candida albicans, which builds up inside the lining of the mouth. It causes white cream lesions, normally on the inner cheeks or tongue. These sores are often painful and can bleed when they are scraped. Oral thrush, also called oral yeast infection and Candidiasis, can also spread to the roof of the mouth, gums, back of the throat and the tonsils.
It can develop in anyone at any age including breast feeding infants. It is mostly a sign of low immunity. This infection as well as other yeast infections may occur when the immunity system of the body is damaged because of sickness or medications such as antibiotics that disrupt the natural healing power of the body. Predisposing factors include diabetes, HIV, birth control pills, medications like steroids and anti cancer treatment drugs etc.
A worrisome cause of sore throat and white tongue is leuloplakia. This is a condition where white thick patches develops on gums, the tongue and the inside of the cheek. These white patches develop due to keratosis (thickening of epidermal layer). These patches can not simply be rubbed off.
There are two types of leukoplakia depending on their cause:
Standard Leukoplakia: Mostly a result of chronic use of tobacco, including chewing and smoking. 3 out of 4 users of tobacco products will, in due course, cultivate leukoplakia in the area where the tobacco is held against the cheeks. Long time use of alcohol as well as other chronic irritants also contribute.
Hairy Leukoplakia: This is caused by a virus called Epstein-Barr virus or EBV. When an individual is infected with EBV, this virus stays in the body permanently. Usually the EBV virus is inactive but if the immunity system is weakened, like in case of HIV infection or other diseases, the virus re-activates and leads to conditions like leukoplakia.
Leukoplakia is frequently mistaken for oral thrush as both are common in individuals with HIV/AIDS. However leukoplakia is a pre-cancerous condition and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The most common cause of a sore throat is viral infection that can readily be treated with simple home remedies. But sometimes a sore throat may be caused by bacterial infection called streptococcal pharyngitis or strep throat in short. A strep throat needs proper treatment. It is contagious and as mentioned before, mainly infects young school going children.
What Does Strep Throat Look Like?
The symptoms of strep throat are more severe compared to a sore throat. They include:
- Body ache
- Generalized feeling of sickness
- Painful swallowing
- Sometimes nausea and vomiting (mostly in children)
- Enlarged tonsils
- White patches and streaks of pus may be seen on enlarged swollen tonsils
- Swollen and tender painful lymph nodes in front of the neck.
Complications Of Strep Throat
It is not serious but without proper antibiotics and early treatment, it may sometimes cause dangerous complications like:
- Spreading of the infection to the tonsils, middle ear, blood and brain
- Scarlet fever with a characteristic rash
- Rheumatic fever that can cause permanent damage to the heart valves.
How to Treat White Tongue Sore Throat
White tongue sore throat is generally a harmless condition and can be treated with simple home remedies.
White Tongue Treatment
- Brushing your tongue with a tooth brush or a tongue scraper regularly.
- Drinking plenty of water and fresh juice helps.
- Salt is one of the best natural remedies for a white coated tongue. Its antiseptic properties help kill bacteria and remove dead cells.
- Another popular home remedy for a white coated tongue is vegetable glycerin. It is especially effective when the white tongue is due to a dry mouth. It also helps getting rid of bad breath.
- Hydrogen peroxide is a very good antiseptic with antibacterial properties that helps in treating a white coated tongue.
- Aloe Vera juice due to anti inflammatory and healing properties makes a good home remedy to treat sore tongue and throat.
- Eating Yogurt helps treat oral yeast infections and if the white tongue is due to candida it can cure the infection.
Remedies for Sore Throat
- Gargles with warm salt water help reduce swelling and provides a soothing effect to the throat.
- Drink plenty of water and fluids and stay hydrated.
- Using a vaporizer or humidifier in the bedroom will make the patient feel comfortable and relieves hoarseness by soothing the air passages.
- Hot fluids such as tea and soup also relieves throat irritation.
- Avoid smoking and other tobacco products.
- Honey in warm water has been a very effective home remedy for sore throat.
- Licorice root has been used since a long time for sore throat relief. Recent studies shows that licorice root when mixed with gargle solution is very effective home remedy for sore throat .
- Using an over the counter throat lozenge containing methnol is also helpful for soothing the throat irritation and provides comfort from sore throat.
- Over the counter pain medicines with anti inflammatory properties like ibuprofen is also helpful in providing pain relief and reducing the throat inflammation.
So whether it’s a white tongue sore throat, swollen gums or hurting tonsils that have been bothering you, you must take good care of your oral hygiene at all times. Change your tooth brush after you recover from an illness, wash your hands frequently and strike a great smile for that selfie!
Contributed by Dr Asima Fazal