What do Bumps on Back of Tongue Mean: 10 Likely Reasons

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Our body has many indicators to tell us when there is something wrong. Some of the most common messages our body sends us to say that there is something wrong are in the form of swellings, inflammations, or redness.

Have you ever started eating and suddenly felt a tongue bump? Or did your tongue feel sore? This must have made you wonder what bumps on back of tongue mean.

Tongue bumps are several small bumps on the surface of your tongue. They are also referred to by the name papillae, or more commonly our taste buds, and are so tiny that we usually won’t notice them. Since they do not have any color of their own, nor a unique texture, you will usually pay no mind to their presence.

Unless they are suddenly enlarged and swollen for an extended period, say months. It is probably a good idea to seek medical assistance, as the enlarged papillae could be due to long-term poor oral hygiene or viral or bacterial infection of some sort.

In that way, raised tiny bumps on the back of the tongue are a warning sign from our bodies that we cannot ignore. Here are eleven possible reasons that you see enlarged bumps on your tongue.

Read this article to find out the causes behind most tongue bumps and possible solutions to have overall good oral hygiene.

Causes of Bumps on Back of Tongue

1. Tongue Injury

It is easy for us to unintentionally harm a part of our body or bite or scratch it in the case of tongues and mouths. We can also harm our tongue’s papillae by using our tongue scraper, aggravating the taste buds and causing a bumpy tongue.

Since the tongue is also a part of the body, it will respond to external disturbances and attain an injury by swelling up larger than its usual size. The most common reason for tongue injuries is if you accidentally bite it. This makes the tongue swell, which can last up to a few days to recover from.

Another cause of tongue injuries is accidentally burning it by consuming hot liquids such as coffee, tea, or other hot beverages.

2. Oral Herpes

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By: Cherries on Shutterstock

You probably know herpes as a dreaded viral infection that is sexually transmitted. But did you know that herpes can also affect the mouth area? This particular form of herpes is also known as oral herpes, and they are known to be extremely painful.

Oral herpes is a widespread occurrence, affecting around 60% of all adults in the US at least once in their lifetime. The blisters are unsightly and will hurt a lot, but the good thing is that most of the time, they will heal gradually when taking the medicines prescribed by your doctor.

One can identify this disease with their characteristic cold sore blisters that appear in the mouth and surrounding areas, such as the nose region. And as for the tongue, the blisters appear right on the tongue, particularly on the gums. As said before, they are extremely painful and are known to stay for a week or so usually.

Oral herpes can spread; i.e., it is contagious. It can spread through mediums such as direct contact with the affected place and through saliva, making contact with the lining of the tongue and the mouth.

3. Canker Sores

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Mouth sores are pretty inconvenient and sometimes bothersome. They are blisters that form in the region around the mouth region. Canker sores are the most common mouth sore, acutely painful, and occasionally irritating.

Canker sores mostly grow inside your lips, which is a pretty inconvenient place on its own. Another possible location canker sores tend to form is on your tongue, which would cause enlarged bumps.

They appear mainly in three colors: white canker sores, yellow and red ones and are usually very raw and bruise-like and cause a sensation of extreme pain when making contact with them, or in some cases even without.

It is to be noted that stress could be a factor that causes canker sores to develop. So try to reduce the factors of your daily life that drive the development of stress.

4. Oral Infection

The signs of an infection at the tongue and mouth are usually characterized by: swelling or inflammation that may be accompanied by pain at the site.

This could happen due to any number of reasons: for example, if the tongue is swollen after biting it, or after injuring it by some other way, you must see a doctor as a person with good oral health doesn’t need to get away from tongue infections- if the tongue is injured, bacteria have an easy entry into it to cause infections.

5. Tongue Cancer

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By: Joshya on Shutterstock

In most cases, tongue bumps do not mean anything, and any swelling will usually go down by itself. Cancer is a rare possibility, but it is still a possible reason to cause enlarged tongue bumps and hence should be included in the list. Not to mention that there are several other reasons, such as allergic reactions.

Although it is extremely rare, you should not eliminate the possibility that the enlarged bumps, especially ones that are spotted at the side of the tongue, have a probability of being malignant.

Additionally, if the enlarged bumps are hard and do not cause any pain, and more importantly, they last for longer than enlarged bumps usually do, i.e., if the bumps are present for more than two weeks, it is probably wise to consult a doctor.

6. Tuberculosis

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

We know tuberculosis, or TB in short, as a disease that primarily affects the lungs. The side effects and symptoms that point to tuberculosis are many, but one of them is that sores or lesions would be developed on the body of the TB patient in any number of parts in the body. One of these parts is the tongue- painful sores on the tongue region.

Tongue sores are a pretty rare symptom of tuberculosis. The probability that a person with the disease will develop it is rare- but the possibility that tongue sores are caused as a side effect of tuberculosis must not be ruled out.

Tongue sores are likely the first warning sign to look out for in a person newly infected with tuberculosis. The disorder can be treated earlier if the tongue sores are taken seriously from the start.

7. Syphilis

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Nau Nau on Shutterstock

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that could be life-threatening if not treated properly. It transfers by direct contact with the syphilis sores from person to person in sexual ways such as vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

How does this relate to the tongue? Well, sometimes people have sores forming on the tongue. This is said to be an early indicator of syphilis, as, during oral sex, the mouth is the direct point of contact with the infected person’s sore. A symptom could be having a sore throat as well.

8. Lie Bumps

Sometimes, the papillae or taste buds off the tongue inflame or swell for a short period, i.e., temporary swelling of the papillae. These are also known as lie bumps or transient lingual papillitis.

Lie bumps are identified by the swelling of the taste buds on the top(upper surface) of the tongue. They appear out of nowhere and are accompanied by a burning sensation on the tongue. They might also cause an itching sensation in the tongue, and you may feel that the area is much more sensitive and painful than usual.

The good thing about lie bumps is that they do not usually require medication of any sort- leave them undisturbed for a while. They appear suddenly, and they typically cure themselves and go away in a matter of a few days.

9. Allergies and Irritation

When the body is not tolerant to certain foods or materials, it develops an allergic reaction to that particular food or material. However, allergic responses in terms of the tongue are characterized by tongue bumps on the back or sides.

Your body could react adversely due to certain types of food, for example, acidic and spicy foods. Allergies and food intolerances usually go away if you identify the food causing an adverse reaction and avoid it.

However, there is a condition known as anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction that causes sudden inflammation of the tongue. It is characterized by sudden respiratory problems like difficulty in breathing.

One should also look out if their body develops hives or rashes and for swelling on the tongue and lips area.

Visit a doctor immediately who can provide medical advice on what to do.

10. Oral Thrush

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By: Sruilk on Shutterstock

Yeast infection is a common term heard in the medical world. Yeast is a fungus that thrives in environments that are dark and moist. And a perfect example of the ideal environment for yeast would be our mouths.

Oral thrush is a type of yeast infection that develops in our mouth. It is also referred to as oral candidiasis, and its telltale sign is inflamed bumps at the back of your tongue. One is susceptible to oral thrush if they have or suffer from diabetes, take medicines that state dry mouth as a side effect, etc.

Yeast causes this dry sensation, and it could be one of the causes of bumps on the back of your tongue.

These inflamed tongue bumps are accompanied by other symptoms of oral thrushes, such as cottonmouth, otherwise referred to as dry mouth. However, the population most susceptible to oral thrush is newborn babies.

Some remedies to treat bumps on back of tongue

If tongue bumps are bothersome and are causing a disturbance to your routine, you might want to try some remedies to treat them. These may be home remedies or otherwise.

In the case of oral thrush, you can consider using antifungal medications. On the other hand, in case of bacterial infections, you might consider buying an appropriate antibiotic.

Oral herpes is unfortunately not curable in one go. It is a recurring outbreak that may well continue for your lifetime. One way to soothe and calm the herpes outbreak is by applying antiviral medication. This will prevent the outbreak from spreading further.

Other factors such as having medication that causes dry mouth, diabetes, etc., can also cause tongue bumps. So treating the underlying factor could be a possible solution to cure the tongue bumps.

But there are a few minor changes you could make to your daily dietary plan that could prevent swollen papillae in the long run. You could avoid consuming spicy foods and acidic foods that aggravate the tongue bumps.

Follow this for a few days until they are completely gone. You could also use topical numbing gels to reduce the pain for a little while.

Being hydrated is, as always, a solution to many problems faced by the body, including tongue bumps. Drink lots of water at regular intervals. Having a gargle with warm salt water is also said to help.

It is recommended to have a saltwater gargle, especially in the time of seasonal allergies, colds. Warm salt water gargles also help several problems: they mainly help with a sore throat and irritation in the throat.

Finally, make sure you have good oral hygiene and follow these home remedies. Check your mouth region properly for any of the above signs of swollen papillae.

And in case or, if needed, visit your doctor in case of any serious concern regarding enlarged taste buds.

It is always best to realize your symptoms before it gets too late.


While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 

Do note that any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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