Dangers of Tongue Discoloration – Diseases Associated with Tongue Color

Reviewed by: | Author: Manoja Kalakanti

At some point or the other, we have all gone through tongue issues. Tongue colors could signify the presence of an underlying disease. Research has suggested that even COVID can cause a change in tongue colour and appearance. According to the National Institute of Health, this virus has been said to be causing many unprecedented damages to your body. It should be added here that COVID patients are mostly suffering from a symptom of the dry mouth known as Xerostomia, which is regarded as the early symptom or the first symptom for detection. Lately, multiple studies have found that this symptom of dry mouth mostly occurs with a COVID positive patient way before the occurrence of major symptoms like high fever, sore throat or others.

What is Tongue Discoloration?

Apart from this, tongue issues give rise to a variety of symptoms which primarily include tongue discoloration or changing of tongue color. In addition to that, there can be alteration in the texture of the tongue and some pain, and you will be surprised to know that all these symptoms must have an affiliation to a disease.

What Does Tongue Discolouration Say About Your Health?

While detecting a disease, we check blood counts, blood pressure, and heart conditions but we often miss out on checking the color of our tongue. We underestimate the power of a small muscular organ like the tongue and its role in indicating the presence of various diseases. Many of us don’t know that the discolouration of our tongue can tell us a lot about our hidden ailments and at present, the most perilous virus which is lurking around us i.e, the Coronavirus.

What does Tongue Discoloration say about your health?

A tongue may turn red, yellow, or purple and each color may be indicative of a disease that you are currently suffering from or hiding in you. Moreover, it is not unusual for your tongue to have a different color or shade, but it can also mean the presence of infection or other medical conditions. At present, it can be a sign of COVID-19 as well and this is called the COVID tongue.

According to research, quite a number of COVID-19 patients are diagnosed with bumps, inflammation, and swelling of the tongue and those who are asymptomatic may only have symptoms such as loss of taste and smell. Moreover, tongue discoloration can be a good indication or helpful for doctors to diagnose a condition based on the color or appearance of the tongue.

What can be more wonderful than our diseases or inner ailments being detected with ease by just witnessing the changing color of our tongue? I think it’s time to give priority to the study of tongue discoloration in this time of crisis.

What Does a Healthy Tongue Look Like?

Before getting into the details of an unhealthy or disease-prone tongue, it is essential to know more about a healthy tongue and how it looks just to make you feel optimistic about your own health. We are all aware of the fact that the tongue has the ‘strongest muscle in our body’ which enables us to taste any delicacy, swallow, and most importantly talk or communicate.

How does a healthy tongue look like?

So, a healthy tongue, we can say, is typically pink in color, varying slightly in darkness and lightness. Along with this, your tongue will definitely hold some small nodules both on the top side and the bottom and they are generally recognized as papillae. Plus, it should be noted that your healthy tongue will have a thin whitish coating on the surface which ultimately helps you to eat and taste your food.

At present, we all are aware of an early symptom of COVID19 which is a sudden loss of taste and smell and here we often fail to realize that it is our tongue that gets mostly affected. Experts are still unsure about how COVID affects your taste and smell.

Recently, a theory of SARS-CoV-2 has arrived that the virus is causing inflammation inside the nose, resulting in a loss of olfactory or small neurons. So, researchers are of the opinion that may be SARS-CoV-2 have same effect but again the opinion got altered a little bit and it has been confirmed that human reception towards SARS-CoV-2 is much higher, and for this reason, if you are affected by Coronavirus, then the bindings of nasal cavity and cells increase in your olfactory tissue and create much more serious issues.

Different Types of Diseases Associated with Tongue Colour – Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

If your tongue does not have a normal pink appearance, then it is something alarming and to worry about as this can be indicative of underlying medical issues, even COVID. A tongue discoloration is mostly detected if you are affected by any virus as it tends to cause inflammation which can consequently create an alteration in your tongue color and affect your ability to eat and taste.

Some of the potential causes of tongue discoloration are :


A person who has a light pink tongue with a thin white coating can be counted as healthy or having good or promising health. Even a healthy person can have a lighter or darker shade of pink.

Normal Tongue

Along with this, the presence of papillae on the top and side of your tongue mostly gives you the texture of your tongue and if you are healthy, then surely you will be able to feel the coarse texture of your tongue.

Heat – Thin yellow coating, red tongue

If a person has a red tongue and not dark pink, then it mostly indicates an acute deficiency of Vitamin B. Moreover, if you are suffering from diseases like Scarlet Fever, Eczema or Kawasaki disease, then most probably your tongue will be discolored to red.

Red tongue with thin yellow coating

Moreover, if you have a red tongue with a thin yellow coating, then probably it is indicative of heat and this can give rise to certain common symptoms like :

  • Feeling hot all the time
  • Tendency to sweat easily
  • Feeling thirsty frequently
  • Constipation
  • Highly irritable
  • Bad-tempered all-day
  • Sudden skin problems

Here, it should also be noted that red patches with white borders is a notably rare sign but it is harmless in nature as it is known as geographic tongue.

Blood Deficiency – little/no coating, pale tongue

A white tongue or a pale tongue is a condition where white patches will be all over the surface of your tongue. Either it is caused by fungal infection, known as oral thrush or blood deficiency. Apart from these, it can be a symptom of leukoplakia or oral lichen planus. Thus, some of its features are :

  • A sudden feeling of dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitation
  • Sudden experience of poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Increase of medical issues in women

Pale Tongue

So, if you are experiencing any sudden appearance of white lines, then it is better to be cautious and go for a medical consultation.

Blood Stasis – Black spots, purple tongue

If your tongue suddenly turns purple, then it is indicative of heart issues or poor blood circulation or blood stasis. Blood Stasis is a disease mostly recognized by Chinese medicine where a feeling of pressure or an acute pain in the chest occurs, resulting in a dark, blood clotted cough. In addition to this, you can also experience purple tongue, if you are suffering from Kawasaki disease. Thus, some of its symptoms are :

  • Experiencing cold limbs
  • Acute chest pain
  • Headaches
  • The sudden appearance of liver spots
  • Pain in your legs
  • Experiencing pale skin
  • Developing varicose veins

Purple Tongue with black spots

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, a purple tongue is a rare but serious condition which mostly occurs due to inflammation of the blood vessels and you ought to be really cautious about it.

Damp Retention – White greasy coating, swollen tongue

If you are experiencing a white greasy coating over your tongue, then surely you are going through some digestive issues. Experts have even suggested that it can be a sign of Peptic Ulcer or Eczema. In addition to these, it can also be a sign of damp retention which mostly gets undetected. Moreover, a study in 2017 has indicated that nearly 43.5% of the population mostly suffers from Eczema and have a pale greyish tongue. Usually white lines develop between spots creating a shape similar to a map. Some of its symptoms can be cited as:

  • Sudden experience of bloating
  • Fullness in your chest
  • A sudden feeling of heaviness
  • Experiencing fullness in the Abdomen

 Swollen tongue with white greasy coating

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, this type of tongue discoloration is notably known as Geographic Tongue, which often forms greyish-white spots on your tongue.

Qi Deficiency – thin white coating, teeth marks, pale tongue with few red spots

A tongue can also reflect a person’s inner harmony or disharmony, and if you have a pale tongue with few spots on it or a tongue that has thin white coating and teeth marks, then you must definitely be suffering from Qi Deficiency. Some of its signs or symptoms are :

  • Signs of fatigue
  • Experiencing poor appetite
  • Acute shortness of breath
  • Experiencing sweating at all times
  • A sudden feeling of stress/overthinking

Pale tongue with red spots

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), having a balanced Qi is essential for your good health and mental stability.

Yin Deficiency – little/no coating, cracks, red tongue

If your tongue has little/no coating, some cracks, and turned red in color, then most probably you are suffering from Yin deficiency. It is mostly caused due to inner turmoil or depression and its clinical manifestations are anxiety, depression, irritable fever, palpitation and insomnia. So, some of its other symptoms are :

  • Having hot flushes
  • Sudden ringing in the ears
  • Menopause
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Profusely sweating at night

Red tongue with no coating or cracks

According to Chinese Medicine, Yin deficiency generally happens due to internal heat in the heart and lungs which can even give rise to certain emotional diseases.

Damp Heat – Yellow greasy coating, red tongue

If your tongue turns yellow, then it can be a sign of bacterial growth in your body. At present, we are all aware of the fact that a very vital symptom of COVID-19 is dry mouth and so if your tongue gets discolored to yellow and you have a greasy coating on your red tongue, then it is definitely an alarming sign. In addition to this, serious diseases like Jaundice or Psoriasis can also be the cause for your yellow tongue, and in some cases, you can experience a yellow tongue before it becomes black or hairy in appearance. This condition mostly occurs when the growth of papillae increases and starts trapping bacteria on your tongue surface. Some of the significant signs and symptoms of yellow tongue are:

  • Experience of urinary tract infection
  • Sudden occurrence of clammy skin
  • The feeling of anger and agitation
  • Experiencing skin issues

Red tongue with yellow greasy coating


According to a 2019 study, a yellowish tongue can also be a sign of diabetes and so it is better to rush to a doctor immediately.

Yang Deficiency – Thick white coating, pale swollen tongue

If you have a puffy, pale tongue with a slippery coating, then you are definitely experiencing Spleen – Yang Deficiency. Studies by Chinese Medicine show that Yang Deficiency can be a cause of subfertility or dysfunction in your digestive system. Thus, some of its definite signs/symptoms are :

  • A sudden feeling of cold
  • Rise of pale complexion
  • Experiencing back pain
  • Sudden tendency to panic
  • Feeling emotionally low
  • Causing impotence
  • Sign of infertility

Pale swollen tongue

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is mostly a sign of female infertility and so it is important for women to be aware of these symptoms and have a check on your tongue discoloration.

Qi Stagnation – Thin white coating, red tip

A thin white coating, red tip tongue can be a sign of Qi stagnation. According to Chinese Medicine, Qi Stagnation generally arises either due to your inner emotional disturbances/turmoil or heat or phlegm. Additionally, it can also cause food stagnation where there can be an accumulation of fluids or water. So, some of its symptoms can be cited as:

  • Experience of inner stress
  • Depression
  • Instability in emotions
  • PMT


White coating tongue with red tip

Recently, a Chinese medicinal herb has been created to cure this medical condition where it tends to regulate, harmonize or disperse the flow of Qi efficiently.

Lung Issues – Brown Coating

If you have a brown coated tongue, then there is nothing to worry about because it is regarded as a harmless sign. This generally occurs due to your food and drinking habits. It can also be an outcome of smoking and or using tobacco. On a serious note, a brown tongue has also been recently diagnosed as a sign of lung issues or oral cancer for which you should be cautious. Some of its signs are :

  • Experience of altered and metallic taste
  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • A sudden feeling of gagging or tickling sensation


Brown tongue

Moreover, an unattractive, brown tongue is harmless but if you are having these above-mentioned signs/symptoms, then you immediately need to see a doctor or have a medical consultation.

Kidney Diseases – Blue

A sudden blue tinge on your tongue can be a sign of less oxygen in your blood. Sometimes, it can turn serious; if you have low levels of blood circulation and then you need to have immediate medical attention. In addition to this, blue tongue can also occur due to lung issues or kidney problems and then this tongue discoloration can be a sign of detection to doctors. Some of its signs and symptoms are:

  • Experiencing lack of oxygen in lungs
  • Occurrence of blood disorder
  • Blood vessel disease


Blue Tongue

Recently, it has been researched that having a blue tongue can also be a cause for Eczema and you should be well aware of it before it gets too late. Moreover, it will be interesting to note that tongue reading is a very common practice among Chinese medicine even today and this involves an overall assessment of your health condition.

COVID Tongue – All You Need to Know About the Latest Coronavirus Symptom

Recently, a renowned professor Tim Spector of King’s College in the United Kingdom has recently observed that COVID-19 patients are mostly experiencing certain oral issues like tongue discoloration or tongue enlargement and this notably gives rise to a concept named ‘COVID Tongue’.

What is Covid Tongue?

Apart from experiencing headache and fatigue as early symptoms of COVID 19, there can be a strange symptom of loss of taste or smell or to say Mouth Ulcer. It has been confirmed that more than 35% of people at present are suffering from Non-Classic or Asymptomatic symptoms of COVID 19 like skin rashes, COVID toes or a sudden discoloration of tongue. A changing color of tongue can help you to detect whether you have Coronavirus in you or not. Before rushing to a doctor, this detection can even enable you to save others from getting infected.


COVID Tongue is a condition in COVID patients which causes patches and ulcers all over your mouth. Along with these, there will be a loss of taste or smell for a few days or weeks or an occurrence of dry mouth which is also known as Xerostomia. Moreover, among COVID patients, your body won’t be able to produce saliva which otherwise protects you from harmful bacteria/virus present in your body but in case of Coronavirus, it said to attack the oral linings and muscle fibers, and there ACE2 or Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme create a potential route of entry for the virus in your body. In most cases, COVID patients tend to feel dryness or stickiness in their mouth and the tongue may become much thicker than usual and you may also feel a sudden change in tongue sensation. Along with these, some patients can also feel muscle pain while eating or chewing due to the presence of acute ulcer in their mouth and you can notice that all these strange disorders occur in a COVID patient due to a sudden decrease in the quality of saliva whereas the quantity remains intact. So, during this pandemic, you should keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water and liquid.


Recently, more research has been done on COVID 19, it has been found that COVID Tongue is able to cause serious infection in your mouth and form uneven patches all over your tongue. It may not seem serious or harmful to you initially but in reality, it is a sign to get yourself detected and to isolate yourself or to maintain distance from others.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Along with COVID tongue or tongue discoloration, if you start having other symptoms as well like fever, skin rashes, headache, sore throat or say diarrhea, then you should immediately see a doctor or take medical assistance. It should be noted that the new strain of novel Coronavirus is coming up with a wide range of new medical conditions which can vary from mild to severe like :

  • Fever ranging from 99 F to 101F or more
  • Continuous dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Acute chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Now, you must be thinking about what to do if you are experiencing most of these symptoms. First, relax and take a deep breath. Isolate yourself from your near ones and get yourself tested and treated accordingly. In order to prevent yourself from medical complications and to save others from getting infected, follow all the important precautionary measures and ensure that you wear double masks all the time, even at home. In public places, make sure to maintain social distance and sanitize or disinfect yourself all the time, and only by practicing these measures like a ritual from now on, can you actually prevent this virus from causing more damage.

Take Away

It should be noted that with the sudden onset of novel coronavirus again in 2020, people have started experiencing unknown and innumerable complications and the condition starts getting serious when those who already have a premorbid history of disease mostly experience low blood oxygen level and fail to avail adequate external oxygen. Recently, RT PCR tests are failing to detect the virus in you even after having symptoms and here if you can be an expert in tongue reading, then you can probably save yourself and your loved ones from this deadly virus known as COVID-19.


1. Is brown tongue dangerous?

The condition of the brown tongue is not harmful but can be unsightly to you. This mostly causes bad breath.

2. What does an unhealthy tongue look like?

When the tongue is unhealthy, there will be a significant change in tongue coloration and the normal pink shade will turn into something else according to your health.

3. What does the color of your tongue say about your health?

The tongue can tell a lot of information about your inner health condition and this can help you to get yourself treated immediately or to take precautions accordingly.

4. Is green tongue dangerous?

Having a green tongue can be an indication for many causes but notably, it is a sign of bacterial, fungal, or yeast overgrowth.

5. What does a brown tongue indicate?

Brown tongue is mostly caused due to smoking or drinking a lot of coffee or tea, but it can also be due to certain health disorders.

6. What is a brown tongue a symptom of?

The symptom of the brown tongue is the trapping of bacteria or viruses in between the small nodules present on the surface of your tongue.

7. What does a B12 deficiency tongue look like?

B12 deficiency tongue will look sore and beefy red in color and this mostly causes swelling on the tongue.

8. What does a coated tongue indicate?

A white-coated tongue generally indicates the presence of debris, bacteria or dead cells on its surface.

9. What are some of the common symptoms of coronavirus disease?

Some of the common symptoms of coronavirus disease are fever, headache, skin rashes, sore throat, and dry mouth.

10. What illness causes a black tongue?

A black hairy tongue is an indication of an overgrowth of dead skin cells and bacteria on the surface of your mouth.

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