Macroglossia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Macroglossia is the medical term for a tongue that's larger than normal. The terms enlarged tongue or giant tongue also describe this condition, explains the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Here's what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this rare disorder.

Causes of Macroglossia

This condition may be associated with some inherited or congenital disorders, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH), such as acromegaly, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, and Down syndrome. An enlarged tongue may occur as an isolated hereditary trait, as well.

An enlarged tongue can also be associated with some acquired conditions, including metabolic or endocrine conditions like hypothyroidism or amyloidosis. Cancers or trauma could also cause macroglossia.

Symptoms of Macroglossia

In people with macroglossia, the tongue is proportionately too large for the mouth. Sometimes, the tongue may extend from the mouth. The teeth may be misaligned or protruding as a result of the tongue's large size, reports NORD.

The tongue's large size can interfere with many activities, such as eating and speaking. People with this condition may snore or have high-pitched breathing.

Diagnosis of Macroglossia

To confirm a diagnosis of an enlarged tongue, doctors can take a family history and perform a physical exam, says NORD. To determine the underlying cause of the enlarged tongue, appropriate medical testing may be performed. Since there are many potential causes of this condition, the tests can vary. Your doctor can explain the diagnostic testing they will use in your specific situation.

Treatment for Macroglossia

Treatment also varies depending on the cause and severity of the enlarged tongue, reports the NIH. Medical therapies can be used when the cause is both identifiable and treatable. For example, if the cause is determined to be hypothyroidism, treatment for hypothyroidism may also help treat the macroglossia. In cases where the cause isn't clear, medical therapies haven't been shown to be useful.

In mild cases of macroglossia, the NIH explains that speech therapy may improve speaking. In more severe cases, surgical reduction could be necessary. Surgical procedures can help reduce problems with speech, chewing and feeding.

If you're concerned about an enlarged tongue, see your dentist or doctor. A healthcare professional can help.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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