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.
Tingling tongue is often a symptom of an underlying cause and characterized by an abnormal sensation from the tongue, such as:
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.
Tingling tongue can be caused by a number of reasons, let us discuss the possible causes:
Oral allergy syndrome (OAS)
- 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 such as ingesting caustic agents, topic anesthetics, and prescription drugs may cause a tingling tongue.
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.
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.
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 neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy, lingual neurofibroma, burning mouth syndrome, transient ischemic attack (TIA), migraine, Raynaud’s phenomenon, canker sore, multiple sclerosis, and hypoparathyroidism, among others.
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.