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If Someone Has A Swollen Tongue One Side What Does It Mean?

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What does it mean when...

What does it mean when someone has a swollen tongue on one side (right side)? It has happened before and the tongue is white, but went away after several hours (about four months ago). The person is still able to talk with a lisp. Chloraseptic spray seems to slightly help control the swelling. The person does snore if that is any help. He has also experienced some soreness of the throat over the last couple days, but the soreness in his throat has gone and now his tongue is swollen only on his right side. Any information is greatly appreciated.

Submitted: 6 years ago.Category: Medical
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Answered in 1 minute by:
7/25/2011
Doctor: Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD replied 6 years ago
Dr. Abby
Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 10,330
Experience: Family Physician practicing medicine for over 10 years, United States
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Hello,
Has he had any trauma to the tongue?
Does he take any medications?
Is it impairing his ability to swallow?
Has he eaten anything new?
Any swelling of the lips?

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

He has not had a trauma to the tongue, nor is he taking any medication. He does not have a problem swallowing and has not eaten anything new. His lips are not swollen.

Doctor: Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD replied 6 years ago

Thank you for the detail.
I am sorry he is experiencing this.
Swelling of the tongue on one side can be due to several things.
First--trauma or injury that he may not be aware of
Second--an infection in the tongue (abscess)--this is uncommon. He would have pain/tenderness of the tongue
Third is a condition called angioedema. This is localized swelling of the tissues that is similar to hives--it simply occurs deeper under the surface.
Angioedema usually affects lips, tongue, throat but can also affect other areas.
The cause is generally thought to be an allergic reaction although there are some hereditary conditions that can also lead to angioedema.
Certain medications, including anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can trigger this reaction.
In some people, the cause cannot be determined.
I would try using an over the counter antihistamine such as Zyrtec to see if this lessens the swelling.
He should see his doctor today--he may need referral to an allergist for testing.
If his tongue begins to swell more or if he feels chest tightness, difficulty swallowing or short of breath, take him to the ER.
Please feel free to ask any follow up questions you may have.

Thank you!!

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

Could this be a cause of poor diet, i.e. salt or an acid reflex problem? He had a great deal of potato chips today.

Doctor: Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD replied 6 years ago

Salt can cause swelling, yes.
It would be unusual for it to be on one side of the tongue, though.
It would be unusual for acid reflux to cause tongue swelling.
If his tongue became irritated from all of the salt and he normally chews on one side of the mouth, it is possible that it is due to diet.
I am still concerned about the possibility of angioedema, however, especially due to the fact that this is the second occurrence.

Thank you!!

Dr. Abby
Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 10,330
Experience: Family Physician practicing medicine for over 10 years, United States
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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

What he is telling me now, is that it has happened actually three times already (including this time). So, it has happened two times before and now this time. The first time it happened, it was on one side. The second time it happened, it was on both sides of the tongue, and now it again is only on one side. Also, he has been diagnosed with Graves disease if that is of any further help.
Is it okay to use chloraseptic continuously if it is helping the swelling slightly? Why would using chloraspectic help?

Doctor: Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD replied 6 years ago

Has he undergone treatment for Grave's?

Typically, Grave's will not cause swelling of the tongue. An under-active thyroid can cause tongue swelling, but it will not be intermittent.
I do not know why the chloraseptic spray is making a difference. My suspicion is that it may be numbing the tongue but not decreasing the swelling itself. He may feel that it is improving the swelling because the tongue is numb...
His doctor does need to know about this. It is a potentially serious condition if it worsens and starts to involve the throat...

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

No, he has not undergone any treatment for Grave's. He has been told there is no treatment for his current stage. He was told that there are treatments that are experimental and there are operations for severe cases. However, his condition with Grave's is in a dormant stage, so he has not sought any treatment. He can only get treatment if his condition gets worse and he has seen a specialist.
Since Grave's is caused by thyroid over or under active, could his thyroid be inflamed and also be the reason for his swollen tongue? His tongue has not gotten worse, but it is still swollen. We are very grateful for your help!
Would you happen to know if any throat specialist in our area that you could recommend? We live in Covina, California.

Doctor: Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD replied 6 years ago

Hmm, something is unclear regarding his Grave's disease.
Grave's disease is an autoimmune thyroid disease that leads to hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
It is treated with medications or radioactive iodine (to ablate the thyroid).
If he is not having symptoms and his thyroid hormone levels are normal, then he just needs to be monitored, but eventually he may become hyperthyroid. This would not be causing the swelling of the tongue.
Unfortunately, I am in Michigan so I do not know of a specialist in your area. The best person to consult would be your GP for a referral.

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

Thank you for all your time and information. He wants me to ask you if you have any thoughts or answers of why this would only happen during the night and not in the day.
He has had the radioactive treatment in the diagnosis stage, but it did not help.

Doctor: Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD replied 6 years ago

Interesting. I do not know why it only happens at night, to be honest, unless he is unknowing biting his tongue in his sleep.

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

Again, we are very grateful for all your information. It has set us at ease and we will see his doctor today. It is physicians like you that make a great difference in the world. God bless you! Please know you are a special person.

Doctor: Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD replied 6 years ago

Thank you, I am happy to have helped :)

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