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unhealthy tongue
May 24, 1999

I have been sick three times since November 1998- sick to the point of missing work and having to stay in bed for several days. The last time was in April, and since then, although I have gotten over the flu, my tongue is not healthy. First I was told it was thrush, and I was taking medicine for that. When that did not work, I was sent to an ear nose and throat doc. who said it was "hairy tongue". He said all I could do was brush it and rinse with Hydrogen Peroxide, salt water. Since then (2 weeks ago), it has gotten better and worse, and it has not gone away. I don't smoke cigaretts, but I do smoke pot. Other than that, I am very healthy. I eat well, excercise regularily, and have not had any serious illnesses in my life, nor have any of my family members. What's wrong with me? Is hairy tongue often associated with other sickness, like the common cold or flu? Is it a virus? If it's bacteria, why don't antibiotics help? Should I get an Aids test? I don't believe I an at risk for HIV, is this associated with HIV? Also- when looking at my tongue I have noticed not only white, raised pieces, but red dot-like things. HELP!

Response from Dr. Reznik

Hairy tongue is an overgrowth of the normal papillae that appear on the tongue and is *not* indicative of an infection; this is the reason why antibiotics will not work. You do not have to have any underlying medical condition, such as a cold, flu or even HIV to present with hairy tongue. These elongated papillae may act as traps for bacteria which can lead to an overgrowth of some microorganisms, but this can be handled by keeping the surface of the tongue as clean as possible, i.e. brushing your tongue on a daily basis. Although there is no documented evidence, it makes since that a toothpaste with anti-microbial effects, such as Colgate's Total, will be beneficial.

The "red dot-like things" you refer to are part of the normal anatomy of the tongue.

Smoking is a risk factor for hairy tongue as is dry mouth.

Do you need to be tested for HIV? If you have any concern about your status, I do recommend that you be tested.

I hope these answers address some of your concerns!

DR


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