The tongue is just about the strongest muscle in the whole body. This small muscle allows us to taste our food, swallow it, and talk (but not all at the same time!) A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small nodules called papillae.
The circumvallate papillae, or vallate papillae, are the large bumps on the back part of the tongue. These papillae, shaped like a V, with the point towards the back of the tongue, house the taste buds. Underneath the back section of the tongue are eight to twelve cicumvallate papillae that cannot be easily seen. At the base of the tongue we have the lingual tonsils. All of these are natural bumps that can be found on any human mouth.
Sometimes you might notice other bumps on the back side of your tongue and wonder what they are. Here is a list of possible causes for those bumps:
- Injuries or Trauma: While it is relatively easy to burn or bite the front section of the tongue, doing the same to the back of the tongue is not as common. However, it can happen and the pain from these bumps and burns can be pretty bad.
- Vitamin Deficiencies: If you notice that your tongue has changed colors from its healthy pink to a reddish strawberry, or even brown, then you need to be aware that you probably have a vitamin deficiency and need to add more folic acid or vitamin B-12 to your daily diet.
- Stomatitis: Stomatitis, also known as an aphthous ulcer, is caused by poor oral hygiene and often leads to the development of bumps on the back of the tongue.
- Burning Tongue Syndrome: An actual problem that women may experience after menopause, burning tongue syndrome does just what its name implies – it makes women feel like their tongue is burning.
- Leukoplakia: This condition results in thick white lesions forming in the mouth. Raised bumps may also appear on the gums, inside the cheeks and on the tongue. Although benign, in rare cases leukoplakia lesions may be precancerous.
- Scarlet Fever: The streptococcal infection that causes scarlet fever not only causes a really high fever, but also leaves its tell-tale rash of red bumps on the tongue.
- Cancer: Although not very common, cancer of the tongue may be one reason for some of those bumps on the tongue. These bumps can be red or white and they usually bleed easily, although they don’t normally hurt.
- Allergic Reactions: Certain foods, medicines, or other drugs or substances may cause an immediate allergic reaction on the tongue. These allergic reactions usually involve bumps forming on the sides and back of the tongue.
- Kawasaki Disease: This autoimmune disease, which often affects children, is rarely seen. However, it is characterized by the large, red bumps that form on the back part of the tongue.
- Warts: Warts in the mouth is fairly common. Most often due to sucking on fingers with warts present, or engaging in oral sex with someone who has genital warts. These warts can grow on the tongue.
- Oral Thrush: Caused by a yeast infection, oral thrush is usually seen in people who wear dentures, and in infants who drool. People using steroid inhalers are also prone to developing the characteristic bumps of thrush.