What causes a tongue that is purple or why is my tongue purple? Uncover the causes of purple tongue (on tip, side, under tongue, or back of tongue) including purple spots on tongue or bumps, the purple under tongue veins and Chinese medicine interpretation of a tongue that is purple (deep or dark purple, blue purple, purple red or black purple).
A tongue turning purple is not only a problem of dogs or cats but also human beings. Sometimes, for any of the many reasons or causes we will look at, you might end up with a tongue that is purple. However, it is a less often tongue discoloration problem as compared to the more often white, yellow and black tongue.
Besides being entirely purple in color, your tongue could also have other purple shades including purple red, dark purple (deep purple), black purple, blue purple, among other. Furthermore these purple colors could be on the side of your tongue, under your tongue (including the blue or purple veins underneath tongue), on the back of the tongue or even on your tongue tip.
Although rare, anyone can end up with a purple looking tongue i.e. the purple colored tongue problem affects children (infants, toddlers or babies) as well as adults. Your age might not matter much.
Purple tongue symptoms
When you have a purple tongue, depending on what causes it, you might have some symptoms that include soreness, swelling, discharge, bumps, etc. There could also be more symptoms that are related to the underlying causes.
Purple tongue causes or why is my tongue purple
What does a purple tongue mean or what makes it purple? Purple tongue discoloration could mean so many things since has a number of causes. Some of the common causes of this purple discoloration including purple patches on tongue are:
1. General blood circulation problem
The first possible cause of a tongue that is purple is a blood circulation problem. This could be as a result of many diseases and conditions including peripheral artery disease, blood clots, varicose vein, diabetes, obesity, Raynaud’s disease, among others. You will have other symptoms such as numbness, pain, muscle cramps, stinging or throbbing limp pain as well as body tingling.
2. Nutritional deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies is another common cause of a purple tongue especially riboflavin or vitamin B2 deficiency. However, this is not the common symptom of ariboflavinosis (a disease that results from riboflavin deficiency).
When you have ariboflavinosis, you will have are likely to have other symptoms including those of stomatitis such as painful red tongue accompanied by sore throat, fissured lips (chapped lips), etc. Furthermore, deficiencies in vitamin B12, and folic acid has also been associated with a reddish purple tongue.
If your purple tongue discoloration is caused by nutritional deficiencies, ensure you include eggs, meat, fish, cheese, green leafy vegetables and yogurt which are rich in riboflavin in your diet.
3. Chronic bronchitis
Going on with causes of a purple tongue, chronic bronchitis that affects oxygenated blood supply in the body can lead to tongue that is purple especially dark purple or dark blue. Chronic bronchitis is also likely to cause a bluish-purple skin and veins. To know it is chronic bronchitis, you will expect other symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness, “a persistent cough that brings up mucus (phlegm)” as well as frequent chest infections.
4. High cholesterol levels
Most naturopathy often link the purple tongue problem with elevated cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is often a cause of heart problems as well as blood circulation problems.
5. Injuries including tongue piercing
Sustaining major injuries (including tongue biting) or tongue piercing can lead to a purplish tongue. In such a case, you will have a bruised, sore and swollen purple tongue.
6. Other conditions associated with a tongue that is purple
- Weak digestive system.
- lymphatic drainage system problem as well as weakening of blood vessels
- Weak immunity system especially in people with terminal illnesses such as HIV Aids, and unattended to diabetes.
- Having areddish purple colored tongue could be due to pellagra, sprue, Plummer-Vinson syndrome or pernicious anemia
- Prolonged use of some medications (such as antibiotics) or reactions to some diets or foods
- Eating foods such as beets, grapes, Kool-Aid, can make your tongue purple temporarily.
- Food debris accumulation and bacterial growth.
- Smoking can make your tongue and lips purple
- Prolonged tongue inflammation
Purple tongue Chinese medicine
According to Chinese medicine, having a tongue that is purple indicates you have excessive heat, depleted fluids (due to heat), cold condition or blood stagnation i.e. “blood stagnation, poor circulation or too much sugar in the body which makes you feel tired and cold”. The probable cause of this could be eating mostly cold foods. You need to ensure you have warm ingredients in your diet such as ginger, coriander or garlic.
Other deduction from Chinese medicine with regard to a tongue that is purple include:
- If you have a light purple, greenish purple, or bluish purple tongue body color, you are likely to have blood stagnation and coldness in the body.
- A dark reddish purple tongue shows your body fluids are depleted due to excessive heat.
- Reddish purple discoloration of tongue shows blood stagnation and heat.
- Blush purple stiff tongue shows you have an impeding or potential wind stroke
These are not the only causes of a purple colored tongue. There are many other disease and syndromes which can be behind the problem. Ensure you get the right diagnosis from a qualified medical practitioner.
Baby purple tongue including infants and toddlers
When a baby has purple tongue, (it could be dark purple, on the side, under the tongue or simply purple spots), you not need to worry since it can be as a result of tongue biting (and abrasion) especially during teething. Check for bruises, lesions or injuries. Otherwise, the problem could indicate a congenital problem, oxygen depletion, infections, etc. It will rarely be purple tongue syndrome or disease unless the child is a preteen.
Purple spot on tongue and bumps
Instead of the whole tongue being purple, or having patches (i.e. purple patch on tongue), you can have purple spots on tongue (i.e. on the side of tongue, under your tongue, tip, back of the tongue or anywhere on your tongue which could be on toddlers (children), teenagers as well as adults. What are some of the purple spots on tongue causes?
1. Purple tongue syndrome or disease
When you have this disease, you will end up with a swollen tongue (that might block airways) that has large purple spots. It commonly affects teens and preteens and can cause death. To reduce chances of infection, there are two vaccines i.e. the purple immune and nopurple shots.
2. Purple sore lesions or purple bruise on tongue
Spots or bumps on tongue can be result from trauma from injuries such as tongue biting, after piercing or from some dental appliances. Furthermore, such lesions can be as a result of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a kind of cancer) or from, purpura or haemangiomas as well as other bacterial and viral infections.
3. Other causes
Other causes of the purple dots on the tongue including under your tongue include allergic reactions, colored foods, vitamins deficiencies, canker sores, stress, viral and bacterial infections among others.
Purple under tongue, veins and spots under tongue
Now, let us focus a little more on purple under tongue since it is a more common problem. If you have a purple under tongue including purple spots under tongue, bumps and purple veins beneath your tongue, they could be as a result of trauma or injuries, inflamed salivary glands, lack of vitamin B12, smoking, weak immunity (such as of HIV victims), infections (bacterial and viral infections), canker sores, cold sores, too much stress as well as changes in body hormones.
Although many people often fear it could be oral cancer or salivary glands cancer when they have dark purple under tongue. The truth is that unless you have reddish, bluish or purple lump on tongue or ulcer that does not go away, and other cancer symptoms such as numbness in mouth that does not go away, persistent sore throat, tongue pain, difficulties in eating, etc. It is unlikely you have cancer.
To stop the bottom of tongue from turning purple, keep good oral hygiene, try saline solution as well as antiseptic mouth washes (in case you have injuries). However, if the cause is specific to a certain underlying disease or condition, ensure the underlying cause is also treated.
Purple spots under tongue
If you have purple spots under tongue ( they could be deep purple, black or dark purple) there are many possible causes which include terminal end of blood vessels (which is normal), some allergic reactions, blood clot, benign innocuous lesions, injuries, salivary glands problems, smoking, infections, among other causes already mentioned.
I have purple veins under tongue is it normal
Sometimes, the purple under tongue is due to purple veins. There is nothing wrong with you and it is normal to have them unless they are swollen or painful. Normally, the under tongue veins will tend to be dark purple or dark blue or black purple if there is less blood flowing to this area. This problem can affect anyone including babies and adults.
However, large purple veins under tongue i.e. veins that are thick, visible and looking swollen, it could be varicose vein problem. People can get varicose vein even on their tongue.
When to see a doctor for diagnosis
If your purplish tongue problem is related to circulation problem as in the case of chronic bronchitis or it is accompanied with some life threatening symptoms such as breathe shortness, numbness, fever, chills, tingling feeling, etc. you need to see a doctor. This is the only way you will get the right purple tongue diagnosis. Any purple tongue that persists for several weeks needs a doctor’s advice too.