What to know about glossitis

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Along with swelling, glossitis can change the color and surface texture of the tongue because the condition causes the small bumps on the surface to shrink, creating a shiny, red surface.

Severe cases of glossitis can be painful and affect the way a person talks or eats.

There are different types of glossitis, including:

  • Acute glossitis. This often develops suddenly and can have severe symptoms.
  • Chronic glossitis. Chronic inflammation of the tongue is often the result of an underlying condition.
  • Atrophic glossitis also called Hunter’s glossitis. Here, the many of the tongue’s small bumps (papillae) shrink, which changes the surface of the tongue, making it appear glossy.
  • Median rhomboid glossitis. A Candida yeast infection often causes this type of glossitis.


The symptoms of glossitis vary from person to person. They may also differ according to the underlying cause of the condition.

Common symptoms of glossitis include:

  • a swollen tongue
  • pain in the tongue
  • burning or itching in the tongue
  • change in the texture of the surface of the tongue due to the change in the size and shape of papillae
  • different color of the tongue’s surface
  • loss of ability to speak or eat properly
  • difficulty swallowing


There is a variety of possible causes of glossitis, including:

Allergic reaction

When glossitis occurs due to an allergic reaction, a person is most likely to develop acute glossitis and have sudden tongue swelling and pain. An allergy to a particular food, drug, or specific irritant can cause this type of reaction.

Injury to the mouth

Injuries to the mouth, such as small cuts from braces or burns from hot food, might cause the tongue to inflame and swell.

When dental braces cause glossitis, a person is more at risk for chronic glossitis due to the risk of repeated injury to the mouth and tongue.


Certain diseases can cause glossitis, especially those where nutritional deficiencies occur, such as celiac disease, protein-calorie malnutrition, and pernicious anemia.

Diseases that attack the immune system, such as Sjögren’s Syndrome, can cause changes in the mouth that lead to glossitis.


Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can all cause glossitis. However, oral herpes, which is a viral infection, and fungal yeast infections are among the most likely infections to cause glossitis.

Nutritional deficiencies

Iron deficiencies occur when a person does not have enough iron in their blood. This can trigger glossitis since low levels of iron lead to low levels of myoglobin, a substance in the blood that plays a significant role in the health of all the muscles in the body, including the tongue.

Written by:
Stacy Sampson
Braces, Health

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