When you think of warts, the first image that comes to mind is likely a small bump on your hand or foot. While this is certainly one type of wart, there are other varieties – including those that appear on the tongue. Warts on the tongue are an unpleasant and often embarrassing condition for many people.
While they may not be dangerous, having tongue warts can make it difficult to eat and speak, leading to social discomfort. But how and why do these growths suddenly appear on your tongue?
Here, we will explore the causes, types, and effective treatments of tongue warts, as well as answer the most frequently asked questions regarding the condition. Let's get started.
What Are Tongue Warts? An Overview
Tongue warts are benign growths on the lips or mouth, including the tongue, and may be of different sizes. They can range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. Caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), is the most widespread sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Vaccinations are available to help protect against some of the health issues caused by HPV.
Treatment typically involves topical applications. In some cases, surgical removal may be necessary to remove more prominent tongue warts or those that do not respond to other treatments.
Spots on the tongue could suggest the presence of warts, but they may also indicate the presence of other sores and lesions affecting the tongue. Keeping your oral health in check usually prevents you from experiencing these concerns and other issues like black tongue spots.
Types Of Warts On The Tongue
Have you ever taken a look inside your mouth and noticed strange bumps on your tongue? It may be tongue warts. While they can range in size, shape, and color, they’re typically small and have a fleshy or grainy texture. You may feel as though you have a numb tongue in these areas. A tongue wart can be classified into a number of different types.
A squamous cell papilloma is a kind of non-cancerous growth that forms from the stratified squamous epithelium of various body parts, including the tongue, oral cavity, lip, skin, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, cervix, and vaginal cavity. It appears as an outgrowth with a cauliflower-like appearance that can be either white or red in color.
These lesions are usually caused by HPV but don't cause pain unless they interfere with eating or become uncomfortable. Squamous cell papillomas generally do not become cancerous, so they don't spread or increase in size.
Verruca Vulgaris, commonly known as common warts, is an innocuous skin and mucous membrane lesion caused by HPV. These growths can vary in size and number, but they are typically self-limiting. It is rare to find a verruca on the tongue. Instead, they tend to appear more frequently on the hands.
HPV infection presents itself as a small white bump that rapidly expands before leveling off. Unlike other oral lesions that may lead to cancer or malignancy, verrucas are usually harmless.
Focal Epithelial Hyperplasia
Focal epithelial hyperplasia (FEH), also known as Heck's disease, affects the inside of the mouth and mostly appears in kids or people with compromised immune systems. This usually non-symptomatic, benign neoplastic condition produces papules, or small bumps, which can be found scattered throughout the tongue, gums, and lips.
While HPV is generally responsible for FEH, there are other possible causes, such as genetics, a densely populated living environment, lack of cleanliness and nutrition, or HIV infection.
Condyloma acuminata is an infection caused by HPV and is usually seen as skin-colored, fleshy bumps on or near the genitals or anus.
However, it can also manifest as pink cauliflower-like growth in moist areas, such as inside the mouth. This condition is highly contagious and can be present alone or in clusters, either small or large. There is a high probability that these warts will spread through sexual activity, including oral sex.
Warts On Tongue Pictures
Even though warts can occur anywhere on the body, those that occur around the mouth and tongue area can be quite concerning. To give you a better understanding of what warts on the tongue can look like, we have provided some helpful images.
1. As a raised, rounded, flesh-colored growth on the surface of the tongue, a tongue wart may appear inconspicuous at first glance.
2. The lateral edge of a white tongue may also display multiple wart-like lesions.
3. Warts on the back of the tongue are also a common occurrence.
Source: Science Photo Library
4. When tongue warts become enlarged, eating and speaking can be uncomfortable.
Causes Of Warts On The Tongue
Warts can be directly caused by a virus commonly known as human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus can affect any part of the body and is contagious through direct contact with someone who has it. HPV infection is the most common cause of warts on the tongue.
This virus can be spread through sexual activity or close contact with an infected person, such as sharing utensils or kissing. While there are more than 100 types of HPV, only a few types cause warts on the tongue. These include HPV strains 6 and 11.
Other causes of tongue warts may include poor nutrition or immune system problems, such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes. People who smoke or chew tobacco are also at an increased risk due to their weakened immune systems.
In addition, people with open sores in their mouths may be more susceptible to HPV infection. Once a person is infected with HPV, it can take months or even years for warts on the tongue to appear — if ever. It is also possible to develop warts on the back of the tongue, so be sure to check for them. In some cases, people who have had the virus for many years never develop any lesions at all.
When they do occur, however, symptoms of warts on the tongue include gray or white tongue bumps that may feel rough or spongy in texture. They can cause discomfort or pain when eating or talking, as well as bad breath and an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
If you suspect that you have tongue warts, it is important to see a doctor or dentist right away for diagnosis and treatment.
How To Get Rid Of Tongue Warts
The level of discomfort from having tongue warts depends on their size and whether they cause pain or interfere with eating and speaking.
The first step is to make an appointment with a doctor or dentist for a professional evaluation. A doctor can determine if the bumps are actually warts and suggest various treatments based on their size and the number of lesions present.
A dentist may recommend a range of treatments for oral warts, such as trichloroacetic acid. This is an effective option that can eliminate warts in as little as 45 days with three one-minute applications that remove abnormal cells using acids.
Imiquimod is another topical cream often used to treat external warts. It has been found, however, to be effective and well-tolerated when administered orally. This is a type of medication known as an immune response modifier that boosts the body's own immunity. To determine the best treatment for your condition, consult your physician.
Cryotherapy is a therapeutic treatment that uses cold temperatures to treat diseases and injuries. It has been used for centuries as an alternative form of medical therapy, but medical professionals now utilize it to address a variety of skin issues, as well as certain cancers, such as prostate, cervical, and liver cancer.
Cryotherapy works by freezing tongue warts at extremely cold temperatures with liquid nitrogen in order to eradicate abnormal cells. The procedure is usually fairly quick and painless and can be done in a doctor’s office or at home.
Electrosurgery is a procedure that employs an intense electric current to cut through warts and eliminate abnormal cells or tissues. Genital warts on the penis, vulva, or anal area can also be removed by burning them off with a low-voltage electrified probe. This process is usually done at a doctor's office, or clinic, and local anesthesia may be injected beforehand to reduce any pain associated with the burned tongue.
If you choose to treat your tongue warts at home, several natural remedies can be used. Apple cider vinegar is the most popular option as it has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the size and number of warts present. Another effective treatment is tea tree oil which also has anti-inflammatory benefits.
If you plan on using either solution, simply dip a cotton swab briefly and apply it directly to the affected area three times per day for two weeks. Consult your local doctor if these treatments could be recommended for you.
Keep Your Mouth Healthy
Maintain proper oral health and avoid sharing utensils or cups with others. Additionally, refrain from picking at or scratching any warts that may be present on your tongue, as this can spread the virus even further and make them harder to treat.
With proper treatment and preventative measures, you can get rid of your tongue warts and keep them from coming back.
Symptoms For Oral HPV
Oral HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that affects the mouth and throat. In most cases, it is spread through sexual contact with an infected partner. Although it can be asymptomatic in many cases, there are some tell-tale signs associated with mouth HPV.
The first symptom of oral HPV is usually small bumps on the tongue, lips, or other areas of the mouth. These bumpy areas may appear white, red, or slightly raised. Another common symptom is the development of tongue ulcers that can be painful and slow to heal. You may also have difficulty swallowing or have bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away.
Oral HPV can lead to alterations in the taste buds and changes in the texture of the tongue and throat tissue. There could be a feeling inside the mouth of dryness or prickling.
Could A Tongue Wart Be Something Else?
The symptoms of warts on the tongue caused by HPV are often mistaken for other conditions, such as canker sores and fibromas, as they take a long time to develop.
Canker sores, or tongue ulcers, are small lesions that form in the mouth and may appear white or yellow with a red border. Fibromas, on the other hand, are benign lumps that grow in the lining of your mouth due to irritation from ill-fitting dentures or rough teeth surfaces.
Additionally, allergic reactions and irritants from certain foods or dentures can lead to bumps on the tongue. Because of this, it is possible that a tongue wart could be something else, depending on its source. If you are unsure whether you have a tongue wart or something else, consult a professional.
How To Prevent Warts On The Tongue
There can be both discomfort and embarrassment in having tongue warts. The only way to guarantee that you won't get or pass on warts or other HPV infections is to avoid all forms of intimate and sexual contact, which is often not realistic, so talking to your partner and doctor about HPV prevention is advisable.
Get An HPV Vaccine
Studies have demonstrated that receiving HPV vaccination can drastically reduce oral HPV infections. The HPV vaccine also protects against six strains of HPV that have been linked to cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, and throat cancer.
Practice Safe Oral Sex
Use a condom when engaging in any kind of sexual activity with another person, even if you are monogamous. This will help reduce your risk of contracting HPV, which could lead to tongue warts. If you do have any open sores on or near the tongue, it’s advisable to avoid kissing anyone until they have healed completely.
Limit Your Alcohol And Tobacco Intake
Alcohol and tobacco use often leads to unpleasant symptoms such as brown tongue discoloration. These substances can also increase your risk of developing tongue warts because they weaken your immune system and make it more difficult for your body to fight infections.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to a higher risk of HPV infection and a weakened immune response, as well as other health issues. Smoking also increases your risk of other oral cancers and diseases.
If you do use either, make sure to practice moderation and always drink responsibly.
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day will help reduce bacteria buildup, which could lead to infection or irritation.
Additionally, try to avoid eating or drinking sugary foods and drinks, as this can cause an imbalance in the mouth’s natural bacteria and increase your risk of developing tongue warts. Sugar and bacteria in saliva combine to produce acid, which causes the pH to rise, resulting in an acidic environment in the mouth.
Take a look at these frequently asked questions about tongue warts to find out what you need to know.
Are Warts On The Tongue Dangerous?
Tongue warts are usually not dangerous and are mostly harmless, but they may be a bother if the wart is large or causes discomfort. However, it can lead to oral cancer in some cases and should be treated by a medical professional to avoid serious complications.
How Long Do Tongue Warts Last?
It is possible for tongue warts to persist in a person's body without them realizing it. These growths may remain for months or even years, and can spread from one individual to another through contact.
If A Person Has Had Tongue Warts, Should Their Partner Be Treated?
If someone has tongue warts, they should talk to their doctor about any possible STIs and get tested accordingly. It is critical to take precautions when it comes to contagious conditions such as these, and the best way of doing this is by getting the HPV vaccine to prevent genital warts and mouth warts that are spread through oral contact.
Are Tongue Warts Harmless?
Tongue warts are fleshy bumps that appear on the tongue, generally small and asymptomatic in nature. They can come in varying shapes and sizes, which may cause irritation depending on the individual. If this is the case, a medical professional should be able to remove them.
Do HPV Warts On The Tongue Go Away?
A wart on the tongue is commonly not treated, as it is known to go away naturally over time. If the HPV infection clears without any issues, no medical attention needs to be taken. However, if there are any signs of a lump or swelling in your mouth, you should contact your doctor.
What Does HPV On The Tongue Look Like?
An HPV infection within the mouth will appear as small red, pink, or pale sores, similar to mouth ulcers or canker sores, but can be hard to diagnose at first glance because of their inconspicuous appearance.
You should see your physician if you notice symptoms that concern you. Symptoms are usually not indicative of cancer, but you should get checked regardless.
Is HPV On The Tongue Serious?
In most cases, people infected with HPV recover without any treatment or help over a period of one to two years. The risk of developing cancer from an oral HPV infection is low as well. However, it should be noted that it can cause oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the tonsils and back of the tongue. 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in America are caused by HPV.
Are Tongue Warts Cancerous?
Typically, warts are non-cancerous growths that appear on the lips, in the mouth, or on the tongue, as well as on the gums, tonsils, and the back of the throat. Only in extremely rare cases can oral HPV lead to oropharyngeal cancer.
Are Oral Warts Curable?
A wart on the tongue typically resolves itself over time, though it may take a while. While HPV can generally heal without issue, you should seek medical advice if you experience any signs or symptoms, such as swelling or discomfort.
Can You Get Oral HPV From Kissing?
Oral HPV is most commonly passed on through intimate activities such as oral sex and kissing. If a person with the virus has any open sores or cuts in their mouth, then their saliva or mucus could spread it to another person when coming into contact with them.
Are Oral Warts Painful?
Oral warts usually do not cause discomfort and can go away on their own. These sores could, however, be tender when touched or may hurt while swallowing food but are generally painless. Mouth warts caused by HPV look like lumps or bumps in the mouth.
Do Tongue Warts Bleed?
Tongue warts are generally not troublesome, but some varieties such as verrucas may cause discomfort. They can sometimes be itchy or even bleed, requiring medical attention to avoid further complications.
Understanding the full scope of information concerning tongue warts is key to successfully treating and managing them. To prevent infection, you should also take precautions such as getting an HPV vaccine, practicing safe oral sex, and avoiding sharing utensils and drinking straws with someone who has an active case of oral warts.