Enlarged Papillae

Papillae are small growths that look like tiny threadlike structures occurring naturally on tongue. Although not all papillae may contain taste buds, those found on the surface of tongue do. Enlarged papillae can occur due to a number of reasons such as irritation of tongue. The papillae on tongue are called taste buds, and there are different forms of papillae. These structures have nerve endings, which relay messages to brain on tastes of food.

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In most cases, if you have enlarged papillae, without any underlying cause, they will disappear on their own. However, at times, they can persist and require a diagnosis to determine what could be causing them.


What are the types of papillae?

Papillae are found occurring in different forms. There are the fungiform papillae, which occur on tongue’s surface and scatter around though mostly locate on apex and sides of the tongue. Although they are given the name fungiform, they have nothing to do with fungus. They are named that way because they take the shape of mushroom. These kinds of structures detect sweet and sour tastes.


Another type is the foliate papillae, which are found on sides of tongue. These ones have an elongated fold and they are used to detect sour taste. Another form, the filiform papillae are thin and long with a v-shape. These are the most numerous and they give the tongue the rough or abrasive coating. They also detect a sour taste.


The other form is the circumvallate papillae, which help detect bitter taste. These papillae can be found at back of tongue and they form a v-shape heading towards the throat. A person has about ten to fourteen of the circumvallate papillae.


Causes of enlarged papillae

Enlargement of papillae may be caused by a number of things including cancer sores, lie bumps, excess smoking, and irritation of tongue. An inflammatory disorder known as transient lingual papillitis, also referred to lie bumps may occur on the tongue. This affects the fungiform type of papillae on the dorsal area of tongue.


The transient lingual papillitis is characterized by enlargement of papillae with some tiny white or red bumps. A patient with this condition experiences burning or tingling sensation on tongue. Patients may at times feel pain because of the abundant presence of nerves in the area.


Canker sores, which are also referred to mouth ulcers, can cause papillae to enlarge. Canker sores are caused by a viral infection and in turn, it can result to bacterial or other viral propagations in body. Extreme oral thrush could lead to canker sores or enlarged papillae.


People with a weak immune system or some type of hereditary conditions may be more likely to have mouth ulcers. People who constantly smoke may develop enlarged papillae. Smoking causes irritation of the tongue, which may facilitate the enlargement of these structures.

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Other possible causes are gastrointestinal disorders which make one to have symptoms such as enlarged papillae. A person with acid reflux disease or GERD as well as ulcerative colitis may have symptoms like enlargement of papillae. Taking hot food may cause burning of papillae, which induces irritation on tongue.


Spicy foods, very salty foods, or taking foods that have excess acids could harm the papillae on tongue causing them to enlarge. Trauma or biting of the tongue could cause injury, which makes the papillae to enlarge. Exposure to alcohol, toxins, and insecticides may also cause this condition.


Some mineral and vitamin deficiencies are associated with papillae enlargement. Papillae that are enlarged and persist for more than 2 weeks may require one to see a doctor because it could signify the presence of oral cancer. Allergy reactions of foods such as sauces may also make the papillae to enlarge.

enlarged papillae

Symptoms of enlarged papillae

A person with enlarged papillae may have a burning or tingling sensation though not always. The enlargement of the papillae is the common sign of this condition. The papillae may look reddish or swollen. Pain may occur on tongue if you have enlarged papillae.


Although enlarged papillae are likely to resolve on their own, if they cause discomfort or persist for a long time, you might want to seek medical help. There are home remedies and medical therapies that can be applied to help treat the problem. Cold compresses may be applied to sooth the area and reduce pain.


Taking lukewarm water, eating a balanced diet, and chewing mint can help deal with mild cases of the condition. However, in severe cases, oral medicines may be used to treat an underlying problem. The transient lingual papillitis are likely to vanish on their own and they mostly don’t need any form of treatment except when they become bothersome.


Thrush infection, canker sores, mouth ulcers, and other health condition causing the papillae to enlarge can be treated using medications. People who smoke or take certain foods believed to cause the enlargement may want to do away with such habits.




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