Bumps on our tongue are normal, but sometimes we can notice certain changes, whether on the back of the tongue, on the side or under the tongue, which make us anxious. These changes can be big, small, painful, painless, red or white. Whatever which bumps you find, you may want to know the possible causes of them, so you can treat them accordingly. In this article, we will focus mainly on the bumps on back of your tongue.

Bumps on Back of Tongue: Possible Causes and Related Treatments


Transient Lingual Papillitis (Lie Bumps)

Chances are everyone has had this from time to time. Upon inspection, they look like small, red or white dots that are usually caused by irritation, trauma, stress, allergic reactions of certain foods. Children can have these bumps in addition to swollen glands and a fever. This is called eruptive lingual papillitis and can be associated with a viral infection.

While these bumps on back of tongue can be uncomfortable, in essence they are not serious and will usually go away on their own. Rinsing with saltwater, eating cold, smooth foods can bring symptomatic relief.


Allergic Reaction

Certain foods, medication, and various substances can cause bumps on the tongue, whether they are on the back, side or underneath the tongue. The bumps tend to be larger and can appear quickly after contact with the irritant substance. Other symptoms include itching, swelling and welts on the face.

For lighter allergies, antihistamines can be used as treatment. Removal and avoidance of the offending substance should be the course of action. If swelling is intense or breathing is difficult, immediate medical assistance is required.


Aphthous Ulcers (Canker sores)

This relatively common condition can appear as white or red bumps or as an ulcer with a red border and white/yellow center. They can be quite painful and swollen. The exact cause is unknown.

Canker sores will usually go away and heal after roughly 7-10 days without treatment. Symptomatic relief can be found by using saltwater rinsing, over the counter pain relief or topical creams. If persistent, Canker sores do not go away in 10 days, and are accompanied with a fever or so painful that eating and drinking is impaired, medical attention should be sought.



Any type of trauma, from biting the tongue, scrubbing too hard with a toothbrush, hot or acidic food to any type of irritation, can cause bumps on back of tongue that are painful.

These bumps will heal on their own if they are spared further trauma and irritation. Antiseptic mouthwash and a saltwater rinse can additionally help the natural healing process.


Tongue Warts

Warts on the tongue can be discrete bumps on the back of the tongue. These painless bumps can be whitish and shaped like a dome, or with a flat top that is the same color as your tongue. Furthermore, it can be a single, individual growth or it can grow in a cluster. They are caused by HPV virus from contact of an infected finger in the mouth or by oral sex with an infected person.

Tongue warts are very treatable. Some will resolve over time without treatment. Surgical excision, cryotherapy and laser treatments are available. A trip to the doctor's office is recommended to get the best advice on the course of action.


Oral Thrush (Candidiasis)

The formation of bumps along with a yellowish or whitish coating of the tongue with swelling and soreness can be a sign of oral thrush. The lesion has a tendency to bleed if the coating is scratched away. While candidiasis is a yeast infection, it can be caused by many things including poor hygiene, corticosteroid medication, poorly fitted dentures, overuse of antibiotics, diabetes, or immunodeficiency.

An appointment with a medical doctor is recommended to get the best treatment. Antifungal medication in the form of gels, capsules or tablets can be given. Preventive measures include proper oral hygiene.



This condition will cause white or red patches called ulcers that are relatively painless mixed with bumps on back of tongue, gums or cheek. This excessive growth will usually grow slowly over a longer period of time. Persistent candida infections, smoking, alcohol, viral infections, vitamin deficiency are potential causes of leukoplakia.

Leukoplakia is usually benign but sometime it is a precancerous sign. Therefore, any chronic, painless, mixed patches and bumps lasting longer than 2 weeks should be checked by a doctor so a biopsy can be taken.


Scarlet Fever

This condition causes bumps on the tongue, and the tongue is red and swollen thus resulting in a “strawberry tongue”. Other symptoms include sore throat, high fever, swollen glands and a characteristic sandpaper rash. It is caused by the bacteria streptococcus and usually affects children.

Scarlet fever is contagious and should be taken seriously. The treatment is similar to any strep throat infection. A visit to the doctor office is required where antibiotics will be prescribed and bed rest recommended.


Kawasaki Syndrome

This disease mostly occurs in children and is autoimmune. Large red bumps on back of tongue, along with conjunctivitis, rash and swelling of the hands and feet, cracked lips, “strawberry tongue” and swollen lymph nodes are the hallmark of this disease.

This is a serious disease that requires medical attention. The most serious complication is coronary aneurism. With early hospitalization and treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin, aspirin, and corticosteroids, rapid recovery and decreased risk of complications can be expected.


Oral Cancer

Usually bumps on the tongue are benign, but rarely it’s a sign of cancer. The most common type is squamous cell carcinoma. Cancerous bumps are usually painful red or white bumps that tend to bleed, mostly located on the side of the tongue rather than the top. Other associated symptoms include persistent ear pain, sore throats and numbness.

In this case, medical attention is required. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy sample will be taken for histopathology. Depending on the type of cancer and stage, treatment options include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.


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