Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is when contents of the stomach refluxes up into the oesophagus and even back up to the throat and airways. Frequently reported symptoms of reflux include chronic coughing, sore throat, heartburn and indigestion. But a less common symptom is described as ‘acid reflux tongue’.

This refers to a sore or red tongue, numbness or tingling, a burning sensation, or a metallic taste in the mouth.

The research studies

A 2017 research paper correlated abnormalities in taste with GERD. It suggested because acid reflux causes damage to the palate it has the potential to be the cause of taste abnormalities seen in patients with increasing severity in GERD symptoms.

In 2020, researchers compared tongue images of patients with GORD to those without. Reflux patients had a higher amount of saliva, thicker tongue fur, and higher percentage of tongue fur in the spleen–stomach area than healthy people did.

However, there were no significant differences between participants in the two groups regarding the tongue’s colour, fur colour, tooth marks, ecchymosis (bruising) and red dots.

A 2019 study suggested that the colour of the tongue can be useful in the diagnosis of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.

Other causes of tongue irritation

Tongue and mouth irritations are among the less common symptoms of GORD. In 2016, researchers identified that of patients with GERD, only 0.7 per cent had erythema (redness) of the tongue.

Some experts suggest a burning tongue is more likely to be due to Burning mouth syndrome (BMS). This is a chronic condition in which a burning pain or hot sensation is experienced in the tongue.

BMS is not caused by gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, but BMS patients can be referred to gastroenterology clinics with a suspected diagnosis of GORD, due to the burning quality of the pain. GORD can be differentiated from BMS due to the intermittent nature of the symptoms in GORD.

Next steps

An early and objective diagnosis of reflux, such as Peptest provides, opens the door to lifestyle changes, and future treatment. Peptest can also be used after reflux treatments to assess the success or failure of any treatment. Find out more about Peptest and order your Peptest home testing kit now.

If you suffer from persistent problems with your tongue, it is important to speak with a doctor or dentist. Unexplained, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the tongue, or white/red patches on the lining of the tongue can be early signs of cancer, so they should also be checked.

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