Tingling Tongue: Causes & Symptoms

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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Tingling tongue can be like feeling pins and needles on your tongue. This feeling usually disappears on its own but sometimes, it’s necessary to look at the causes to see if it signals another disease.

What is Tingling Tongue?

A tingling tongue can be a non-painful consequence of a lesion or disease affecting the somatosensory system and is thus most likely due to nerve damage of the sensory receptors. This causes abnormal sensory symptoms, such as crawling, burning, or tingling. Although tingling can be a symptom of various diseases and syndromes, it generally is of a neurological nature.

Symptoms

Tingling tongue is often a symptom of an underlying cause and characterized by an abnormal sensation from the tongue, such as:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Prickling

Like mentioned before, some symptoms can cause pain while others that are not painful are named:

  • Paresthesia: It is an abnormal sensation that is not unpleasant.
  • Dysesthesia: This is considered an unpleasant abnormal sensation.

The borderline between both terms is unclear, just as tingling that can be unpleasant for one person while it doesn’t bother another. Although tingling is not painful, it is one of the symptoms of neuropathic pain.

Causes

Tingling tongue can be caused by a number of reasons, let us discuss the possible causes:

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS)

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is “an adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food”.

  • Symptoms are usually limited to the oropharyngeal area but can vary among individuals. Also named pollen-food syndrome, the symptoms occur shortly after eating raw fruits, nuts, or vegetables.
  • Common symptoms are itching, tingling, and/or swelling of the lips, tongue, palate or throat.
  • Severe reactions have been reported, such as anaphylaxis.
  • The onset of OAS is common in older children, teens, and young adults, where until a certain moment the allergens did not cause any problems.

Medications

Medications such as ingesting caustic agents, topic anesthetics, and prescription drugs may cause a tingling tongue.

Toxins

Both natural and artificial toxins can cause paresthesia of the tongue. There are too many toxins to name here, but an example is ciguatera fish poisoning that may cause a sensation of numbness and tingling of the tongue. It is caused by eating fish that is contaminated by the toxin, mainly large reef fish such as barracuda, grouper, eel, and sea bass. About 50,000 people are poisoned per year worldwide. Other widely known types of toxins that may cause tingling tongue are heavy metals and tetrodotoxin in pufferfish.

Local Anesthesia

The anesthetic used for dental procedures almost always causes sensory effects like tingling of numbness. This is a temporary effect and passes after a few hours. In some cases, however, tingling is caused by nerve damage due to the dental procedure, which can lead to permanent damage.

Trauma

Even a small trauma like eating or drinking very hot or very cold foods or beverages, biting the tongue or getting tongue piercings can cause paresthesia or dysesthesia. These sensations are temporary. Trauma could also happen due to some kind of treatment, such as radiation for cancer treatment.

Diseases and Infections

Several diseases and infections can cause a tingling tongue, such as postherpetic neuralgiadiabetic neuropathy, lingual neurofibroma, burning mouth syndrome, transient ischemic attack (TIA), migraine, Raynaud’s phenomenon, canker sore, multiple sclerosis, and hypoparathyroidism, among others.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Several vitamins and minerals are known to influence oral health, both in deficiency or excess, that may lead to a tingling tongue or other neurological signs and symptoms in the mouth. Vitamins and minerals known to have an effect are B vitamins, iron, zinc, and calcium.

About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve is a health and wellness enthusiast and started working on Organic Facts since 2012 and is currently responsible for managing it. She follows naturopathy and believes in healing with foods. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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