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What could the white bumps on the back of the tongue mean?

What could the white bumps on the back of the tongue mean?

The following is an actual conversation between an iCliniq user and a doctor that has been reviewed and published as a Premium Q&A.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At August 12, 2017
Reviewed AtApril 23, 2024

Patient's Query

Hi doctor,

I am a 28-year-old female, and I have white bumps on the back of my tongue. I also have painful white sores on the sides of the tongue. I have been getting painful sores on the tip of my tongue quite frequently for the past two months. But this time, the pain was severe. I did get some relief after taking a few antibiotics. What could be the possible causes? I have attached pictures of the sores. I am extremely worried about it being cancerous or due to HPV infection.

Hello,

Welcome to icliniq.com.

I went through your complaint and also the photos (attachment removed to protect patient identity) that you provided of the lesion.

As far as your history of painful sores on tongue tip is concerned, there can be various reasons. Most common are vitamin B12 deficiency, stress, irritant food or medications, and trauma. These sores disappear after a certain period if the cause is removed, so believe it or not, antibiotics may aggravate them if the cause was any stress or nutrition deficiency.

Coming to your pictures, I got a superficial view of the lesion due to low resolution, and I could make out it does not seem to be HPV (human papillomavirus). But if you experience any tingling, difficulty swallowing, jaw or neck pain, hoarseness of voice, etc., then immediately consult an ENT specialist for oral examination.

It can be swelling of your taste buds, which can be caused by similar things as mentioned above. And yes, at the back of your tongue the white circular bumps arranged symmetrically are called as lingual tonsils, which swell when you suffer from a sore throat.

Please answer the following questions:

  1. Were you involved in oral sex within the past three weeks?
  2. Is your partner's STD (sexually transmitted disease) status confirmed, including HPV, herpes, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)?
  3. Is your STD status confirmed negative?
  4. Have you had multiple sexual partners within the past three months?

If any of the above questions are a "yes" or the symptoms does not subside in a week, please get an oropharyngeal examination done by an ENT specialist. Consult me further for any other queries regarding the treatment or anything.

Patient's Query

Thank you doctor,

I did engage in oral sex about two weeks ago. However, I am feeling a lot better today. The pain is far less, but the bumps are still visible. I did not have any difficulty swallowing, but my tongue hurt while eating or drinking. I do not have a sore throat also. Does the fact that it is getting better imply that it is not HPV? I am really scared of that. My partner and I have never had any STD tests done.

Hello,

Welcome back to icliniq.com.

If there is no worsening of symptoms, then that is a plus point, but I recommend you consult a specialist if in case the sores and lumps recur.

I think it will be fine in about a week, until then, I suggest applying topical ointment, like B Folcin gel (Choline salicylate). It is applied in the mouth on lesions at night after gargling with warm water.

A full course of multivitamin tablets, like tablet MVBC (Multivitamin B complex), one tablet every afternoon after a meal for 30 days. If you have constipation, do get treated with Bisacodyl tablets, one tablet at night before sleep.

Do follow-up until the lumps fully subside. And do not hesitate to consult a specialist if your lesions persist after a week. Till then, keep calm and enjoy.

Patient's Query

Hi doctor,

Thanks for the reply. Please tell me if healing means it is less likely to be a case of HPV.

Hi,

Welcome back to icliniq.com.

Yes, the possibilities of it being HPV lesion are low if the lesions are healing without any complications and any other signs till this week. But, if you are scared and have any doubt, you can undergo a clinical examination just for self-satisfaction.

Patient's Query

Thank you doctor,

I also encountered a few other growths on the underside of my tongue. Please tell me if this is normal. Also, is it normal that I can see my epiglottis easily and clearly on stretching my tongue?

Hello,

Welcome back to icliniq.com.

In the photo (attachment removed to protect patient identity), I can make out some small lumps on the underside of your tongue. Otherwise, nothing is serious.

As I told you earlier if other than the lesions at the side of your tongue, please get a thorough oropharyngeal examination, which will reveal any other hidden lesions if any and other characteristics.

Please, get an oropharyngeal examination with full history done by an ENT specialist. Do not worry and take care. Do follow-up with the reports of your examination.

Patient's Query

Thank you doctor,

I will get an examination done. However, these lumps under the tongue do not pain at all. What could be the possible causes besides a viral infection?

Hello,

Welcome back to icliniq.com.

These lumps can be simple mucous retention cysts, which are swelling in the minor salivary glands. So, there is no need to worry about them.

Patient's Query

Thank you doctor,

All the lesions on the side of my tongue have disappeared except the swollen lingual tonsils you told me about. I do not have a sore throat. So, what could be the reason for these? Will they remain swollen as such?

Hi,

Welcome back to icliniq.com.

The most probable cause of their swelling is an acute infection, whereas vigorous tongue cleaning might be the other cause. Anyway, hope the swelling too will clear up in few days.

In the meantime, just relax as you have no other signs of fever, sore throat, weakness, body ache, runny nose, cough, etc.

Have a nice day. Take care.

Same symptoms don't mean you have the same problem. Consult a doctor now!

Dr. Chandwadkar Ashish
Dr. Chandwadkar Ashish

Internal Medicine

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