Enlarged Papillae - Treatment, Causes, Pictures

Enlarged Papillae

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The papillae are tiny thread like structures naturally occurring on the tongue. Enlarged papillae can be caused due to a variety of reasons, as discussed below. Most cases of enlarged papillae disappear on their own. Persistent cases need to be checked by a doctor who will diagnose the underlying cause and prescribe relevant remedy.

Types of papillae

The four types of papillae are listed below:

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  • Fungiform papillae: They are scattered all over the tongue, but are typically found on the sides and tip of the tongue. The fungiform papillae are shaped like mushrooms and help detect sour and sweet tastes.
  • Foliate papillae: They are located on the sides of the tongue. They are grouped into 2 clusters and each consist of an extended fold.
  • Filiform papillae: They are the most abundant type of papillae. Thin, long, and v-shaped, the filiform papillae help detect sour taste and act as an abrasive cover for the tongue.
  • Circumvallate papillae: They are situated at the back section of the tongue. The circumvallate papillae occur in the shape of a V, and taper towards the throat. They help detect bitter taste. Most individuals just have 10 to 14 of these papillae.


Most cases of enlarged papillae are harmless. They can also occur as a symptom of serious underlying conditions. Some of the common causes of enlarged papillae are listed below:

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  • Transient lingual papillitis or lie bumps: It is a local inflammatory disorder that typically affects fungiform papillae present on the tongue’s dorsal area. It is characterized by enlarged papillae and/or tiny white or reddish bumps. Patients may experience tingling or burning sensations on the tongue. The presence of abundant nerves in the affected region means that patients may occasionally feel pain.
  • Canker sores:Also referred to as mouth ulcers, it is a common cause of enlarged papillae. They are usually caused due to a viral infection, which in turn can be the result of bacterial or other viral propagation in the body. Thrush facilitates and aids the attack of varied viruses and bacteria. Hence an extreme instance of oral thrush can also lead to canker sores and enlarged papillae. A weakened immune system and hereditary conditions are other uncommon causes of mouth ulcers.
  • Excessive smoking:Constant smoking can cause tongue irritation thereby facilitating enlargement of tongue papillae.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: Enlarged papillae can arise as a symptom of different conditions of the gastrointestinal system such as acid reflux disease or GERD, and ulcerative colitis, etc.
  • Irritation of the tongue: Intake of very hot food can burn the papillae; consumption of very salty or very spicy cuisines, or excessively acidic foods can also harm them. Biting the tongue or other kinds of trauma to the tongue can injure it. All these factors can increase the risk of tongue irritation and infection, consequently resulting in enlarged papillae.
  • Other causes: Other causes of enlarged papillae include:
    • Exposure to insecticides, alcohol, and other toxins.
    • Some vitamin or mineral deficiencies such as B complex vitamin deficits.
    • If enlarged papillae persist for more than 2 weeks, then visit an oncologist for verifying the present of oral cancer.
    • Allergic reactions to certain types of foods like sauces, etc.

Treatment for enlarged papillae

  • Transient lingual papillitis associated enlarged papillae usually vanish on their own without treatment. Discomfort and pain can be managed via home remedies such as application of ice cubes or cold compresses on the affected parts of the tongue, and drinking cold liquids.
  • Gargling the mouth with a solution of salt and lukewarm water; drinking lots of water and eating a balanced diet full of veggies and fruits; and chewing mint leaves can help resolve mild cases of enlarged papillae.
  • Oral medicines as well as use of topical creams can help remedy canker sores related enlarged papillae. Thrush infections can be treated with home remedies like daily intake of yogurt and application of yogurt on the infected areas of the tongue. Nutritional deficits can be alleviated with use of Vitamin B12 and iron, etc. supplements as well as changes in the diet.
  • Following good oral hygiene that involves daily brushing of the teeth and tongue as well as flossing is vital. Visiting a dentist at least once a month can also help prevent unnecessary infections. The dentist will also smoothen any sharp injury-causing teeth.
  • Smoking can not only cause enlarged papillae, but can also pose increased threat to oral cancer. Hence, quit smoking.
  • Ensure that the dentures are fitted correctly.
  • Thrush, yeast, or other fungal infections can be alleviated by gargling the mouth with a diluted solution of tea tree oil. Growth of oral bacteria can be suppressed via use of sesame oil gargles.
  • Avoid the intake of very salty, very spicy, acidic, or hot foods.
  • Stop biting the tongue. Any enlargement of the papillae, infection, or swelling arising due to tongue trauma can be eased by application of glycerin on the affected region.
  • Consuming dairy products with low fat content is also helpful.
  • Oral infections and enlarged papillae can be prevented by drinking soup consisting of garlic, ginger, and pepper, two times a week.

Enlarged Papillae Pictures



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Comments (4)

  1. Keith valentine

    i feel pain when i swallow, i looked in the mirror and i couldnt even see my tonsils my tongue looked swollen, so i felt the back of my tongue and felt bumps.. What are those?

    • Kimberly

      If it returns, check into corcumvilate papillae.

    • Dani

      Hi Keith,

      What you’re describing sounds like inflammation or irritation of the tastebuds at the very back of your tongue. This is most often caused by acid reflux, which may also be the cause of your sore throat.

      Hope this helps,
      D 🙂

  2. Christel

    I feel something on my tongue between my throat. It feels like a bump and stuck. But it’s not paniful. What are those? I’m worried.

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