So what might cause tongue lumps?
February 8, 2012 5:02 PM   Subscribe

What besides HPV could cause these bumps on my tongue?

About three months ago, I started a new relationship after a long drought with no sexual contact with anyone. The new guy and I have been careful with protection for vaginal sex, but not oral. This past week, I have developed three painless bumps in a curved line on one side on the back of my tongue. They're about the size and shape of small warts, with about the same color and texture as the rest of my tongue.

Dr. Google suggests that the most likely cause for this would be HPV. I have a doctor's appointment Monday, but will seeing the guy before then. I feel I should probably go ahead and tell him what's up, and that we should adjust our activities to be safe at least until we have some better idea what's going on, but I don't want to create (more) unnecessary panic or overstate the situation. YANAD, YANMD, and you don't want to play a doctor on the internet, but is there anything else that would be a likely cause for this?

FWIW, I last had a PAP a year ago, and I don't know if they tested for HPV with it, although I am definitely old enough that the test would be recommended.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I get these when I eat too much sugar. I've always assumed they're some sort of inflamed taste bud situation. I'd tell the guy but I wouldn't read too much into it, might be a good time for "Okay let's talk about our STD status" conversation but I would not jump to any conclusions.
posted by jessamyn at 5:03 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actual answer I got from a doctor once: "yeah, if you really look at your tongue, you realize it's just extremely bumpy."
posted by selfmedicating at 5:06 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

I've definitely had inflamed taste buds, usually on the side of the front of my tongue. I've even had 2 at once. Usually go away in a week or 2.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:09 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding jessamyn; swollen taste buds are pretty common and not really a sign of anything. It's a good idea to ask the doc anyway, and also a good idea to let your guy know as a heads up. I'd preface it with "I don't think these are anything to worry about, and I'm getting them checked out on Monday, but just so you're aware..." If he's a decent guy, he'll appreciate your honesty.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:12 PM on February 8, 2012

A dentist is also a good bet to have your tongue checked. Believe it or not we look at them all day every day, unlike your family physician.
Take this opportunity to learn how to do an oral cancer self exam, something your dentist or hygienist should teach you to do and something that every adult should know how to do. They make the mouth a much less scary place.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:16 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lingual tonsils
posted by Cuspidx at 6:18 PM on February 8, 2012

I...definitely once went to the doctor about bumps on my tongue and she laughed at me (literally) and showed me a picture from a medical textbook of what tongues usually look like. Lo and behold, I had just never noticed that the back of the tongue is a bumpy place. In my defense, I'd recently had a lengthy throat infection, and was worried that the tongue bumps were a complication. They were not!

I think we were both honestly delighted by the encounter. I was thrilled there was nothing wrong with my tongue and I got the feeling she'd been delivering more bad news that day than she'd wanted to. I highly recommend going to a doctor with this concern!
posted by troublesome at 7:46 PM on February 8, 2012

Geographic Tongue is very common.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:33 PM on February 8, 2012

I don't usually diagnose people over the internet (and I am not a doctor anyway!) But I feel confident in giving you a diagnosis of "stressing over stds and looking too much at my tongue in the mirror with a flashlight."

By all means go to the doctor to put yourself at ease ... and while you are there, ask for the hpv vaccine! You will be fine (even if you somehow DO have warts on your tongue!)
posted by yarly at 9:49 PM on February 8, 2012

What besides HPV could cause these bumps on my tongue?

IANAD, but a whole ton of stuff.

I could list dart board shit like overly acidic iced tea to a stress reaction to a goofy food allergy, and all of those are more likely than HPV.
posted by Sphinx at 10:17 PM on February 8, 2012

I was going to mention hot soup girl's Geographic Tongue. It sucks. I'm sorry.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 11:54 PM on February 8, 2012

Hard candies can do this. Have you recently rediscovered your love of butterscotch Lifesavers or something similar?

Other types of food can cause this as well, and so can new dentrifices (have you changed toothpastes?) or trauma (eating rough-edged foods like tortilla chips, accidentally biting your tongue, absentmindedly running it over a rough tooth).

Get it checked out, but don't stress too much in the meantime.
posted by timeo danaos at 7:01 AM on February 9, 2012

Okay, OP here.

The reason I found the lumps in the first place was that the back of my mouth felt odd, kind of like when you have a tonsil stone trying to work its way out or a popcorn hull stuck in the back of your throat (and just barely missing the gag reflex). After 4 days, the feeling didn't go away, so I looked back there with a flashlight and found the warty things. They're probably a little less than 1/4 of the size of a dime, and look a lot like blisters except that they're not at all soft. They actually look kind of like this, but bigger, and all the way back in my mouth.

Inflamed taste buds: get those regularly, and they usually don't look like this and they tend to feel almost like a tiny sore spot.

Hard candies: I've always used these to get through the day, so unless they're just starting to cause trouble after 4 years or so, I kind of doubt it.

Toothpaste: no change

Trauma: none

Sugar intake: I'm surprised I don't melt when I go outside in the rain, but this has been all my life.

Goegraphic tongue: based on the pictures here, that may be a possibility. Not sure which I'd prefer, these are annoying and HPV eventually goes away.

Cuspidx, these are located exactly where the lingual tonsils are, from what you posted. Thanks! I got to find out about a body part I didn't realize existed!

Thanks for the answers everyone. I'll probably come back and post after I talk to the doctor Monday.

I'd been meaning to set this account up for a long time, bu it was so I could answer *other* people's questions with personal info!
posted by sockasm at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2012

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