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Macroglossia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

If your tongue is larger than what is considered normal, the medical term for your condition is "macroglossia." Here's what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of this rare disorder to keep you smiling.

What Are the Causes of Macroglossia?

Macroglossia can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired (developed later in life).

Congenital causes may include various syndromes, like:

  • Down syndrome
    A condition in which someone has an extra chromosome.
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
    A syndrome that causes abnormal growth in different parts of children's bodies and tends to slow at about the age of 8.
  • Mucopolysaccharidosis
    A condition in which the body cannot break down sugar molecules in the body.
  • Hemangioma
    The abnormal growth of blood vessels usually shows in the form of a birthmark that fades over time. Sometimes it can adversely affect the area of growth, in this case, the tongue.
  • Congenital hypothyroidism
    Partial or complete loss of thyroid function. The thyroid gland creates hormones necessary for a variety of things, one of them being growth.
  • Neurofibromatosis
    Causes tumors to grow in nerve tissue.

Acquired causes may include conditions or diseases like:

  • Hypothyroidism
    With this condition, your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough crucial hormones and can result in a large tongue.
  • Amyloidosis
    When an abnormal protein called Amyloid builds up and disrupts the function of certain organs in your body, according to Stanford Healthcare, it can also affect the tongue.
  • Acromegaly
    Your pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone and typically results in overgrowth of your hands, feet, and face.
  • Pemphigus Vulgaris
    An autoimmune disease that can cause swelling and blistering on the tongue.
  • Diphtheria
    A bacterial infection that can be spread through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. It can be prevented with a vaccine.
  • Tuberculosis
    A bacterial infection that mostly affects the lungs but can also cause lesions and the enlarging of your tongue.
  • Sarcoidosis
    An inflammatory disease that usually causes abnormal growths in the lungs, eyes, lymph nodes, and skin but can also affect your tongue.

Symptoms of Macroglossia

If your tongue is proportionally too large for your mouth, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Protruding teeth
  • Interference with eating
  • Interference with speaking
  • Snoring
  • High-pitched breathing

Diagnosis of Macroglossia

Your medical professional will diagnose macroglossia by performing a physical exam. To determine the underlying cause of the enlarged tongue, appropriate medical testing may be performed. Because there are so many potential causes of this condition, the tests can vary. Your doctor will be able to explain what they recommend for your specific situation and why.

Treatment for Macroglossia

Treatment also varies depending on the cause and severity of your enlarged tongue. If the cause of your macroglossia is both identifiable and treatable, there are medical therapies available. For example, if the cause is determined to be hypothyroidism, treatment for that condition may also help treat your macroglossia. In cases where the cause isn't clear, medical therapies haven't been shown to be useful.

In mild cases of macroglossia, speech therapy may improve issues with speaking. In more severe cases, your healthcare professional may recommend surgery to reduce the size of your tongue. Surgical procedures can help reduce problems with speech, chewing, and feeding.

If you're concerned about an enlarged tongue, see your dental professional or healthcare professional and get their recommendation based on your individual needs. They know your specific circumstances and will be able to advise you on a path of care that will keep you smiling.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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