Small, Big, Sore Red Spots on Tongue Cause & Meaning 

What causes red spots on tongue including the side, under, back or tip of the tongue? If these red spots are your problem, then we got an in-depth insight including small, large sore or painful ones as well as some pictures, treatments, and remedies.

Why do I have a red spot on my tongue?

Any appearance of spots on the tongue can make you uncomfortable but they are usually not serious since they may come and go within few days. If they take more than ten days, then you should consult a physician. Causes include:

Geographic tongue

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It occurs as smooth, red spots of an irregular shape on the side or top of the tongue. The spots size, shape, and location changes with time.  As of now, there is still no sure cause of this problem and therefore, the tongue will continue to be red spotted.

The good news is they are harmless and usually clears up on its own, but it can take weeks or months. In few cases, they can last for a year.

Lie bumps

They are also called transient lingual papillitis. They are characterized by small white or red spots or bumps on the tongue. It is common for some of you to have one or more bumps on the surface of the tongue. They usually clear up on their own in a matter of days.

Candidiasis or oral thrush

This refers to a fungal overgrowth that causes red spots on the tongue and it is known as thrush. Infants and older people are more susceptible to thrush. So are people with weakened immune systems or those who take certain medications.

Canker sores

They are characterized as small white or yellow center lesions with a red border. They appear in the mouth on the tongue, inside cheek areas, lips, gum line and throat area resulting in painful sores. They are not contagious.

The good news is that this problem may last on its own without medication within 1 to 2 weeks. However, you may use over-the-counter medicines to relieve the discomfort.


It usually associated with hand, foot, and mouth but in few cases, it can spread even on the tip, middle or side of the tongue. It is most common in children under five years of age but does occur in people of all ages.

Digestive disorders

If you are suffering from digestive ailments like Acid Reflux, your tongue tends to have red bumps on it because of regurgitated liquid from the stomach. This liquid usually contains acids and pepsins. You can also, experience other symptoms like heartburn, hiccups or bloating.


The most common form of tongue cancer is usually known as squamous cell carcinoma. It usually develops like an ulcer or a scab that doesn’t heal. It can appear on any part of the tongue and may bleed if you touch it or otherwise traumatize it.


This skin disorder condition can also give rise to this condition of red spots. Eczema can encourage the growth and spread of oral bacterial infection thereby giving rise to this problem.


Substances such as food or medicines may lead to the development of red spots on the tongue due to allergic reactions. Again, Asthma can induce chronic inflation of lungs which is often characterized by the presence of these patches or spots.


Sometimes the type of lifestyle an individual ape may have its consequence on the tongue such as excessive consumption of alcohol and cigarette smoking, or the consumption of hot and spicy foods may lead to the development of red spots. Painful bumps on the tongue can be indicative of Canker Sores as well.

Scarlet fever

This is a bacterial infection causes them tongue and sore throat. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms like high fever, sore throat, headache and nausea among others.

Oral herpes

They are usually associated with the viral infection since they can result to clusters of red and painful bumps on the various parts of the mouth including the mouth, lips or tongue. Bumps as a result of viral infection usually develop after having unprotected or oral sex with an infected person.

Lack of adequate vitamin B12

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Insufficient vitamins B-12 in your diet can cause this condition. Have a diet that is rich in vitamin B12 can help reduce their appearance. Ensure that your diet has liver, fortified cereals, red meat, skimmed milk, cheese, eggs, fortified soy products, mackerel fish, shellfish, and crustaceans.

Kawasaki disease

It is an infection usually associated with toddlers or infants. It affects the blood vessels which leads to red dots on the tongue. The other parts of the body that can be affected include the mouth, lymph nodes, and the skin.

Small red spots on tongue

The main causes of these tiny or small red spots on the tongue may include scarlet fever, early stages of oral cancer, lie bumps, STDs, strep throat, geographic tongue etc.

In some cases, the appearance of red raw spots may not only be because of cancer but also accompanied by other symptoms. Cancer treatment, pregnancy, and gum diseases are also associated with metallic taste in the mouth.

Some of these problems are harmless and are brought about by very small infections or even mouth injuries. However, sometimes the signs may be an indication of other underlying conditions that require urgent medical treatment.

Large red spot

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The appearance of big bumps that are red can be alarming but in a real sense they cannot cause health problems or aren’t associated with infection or cancer. Some of these bumps such as those caused by a geographic tongue can make you uncomfortable and increased sensitivity to certain substances. Some of the causes of big red spots on tongue include:

  • Kawasaki disease
  • Oral Herpes
  • Eczema
  • Candidiasis
  • Tongue injuries etc.

Painful and sore spots

Do you have a small or big red spot on the tongue that hurts? What causes red spots in the mouth which are painful? There are certain infections that lead to this, such as canker sores, Kawasaki disease, Scarlet Fever, Lie bumps, tongue injury etc.

Injuries can also result in sores resembling red filled blood blisters. For example, eating crunchy foods such as potato chips, sucking hard candies, biting your tongue or sipping an excessively hot beverage can all cause to the development tongue blisters, cuts, and burns.

It is important to note that though a geographical tongue is primarily considered a benign or harmless condition, NHS Choices states that this condition can cause a soreness, especially with increased sensitivity.

Red spots on tip, side or under the tongue

Red spots on tip or side or underneath the tongue can be alarming. In most cases, these red raw spots are merely a nuisance. While they may be painful, they are likely to go away on their own within a few days.

Sometimes, red spots underneath your tongue or anywhere in your mouth have probably been caused by irritation. If you’ve recently eaten something very sugary, salty or acidic, spots may form in the mouth. These spots will be very tender to the touch and may make chewing difficult.

Other possible causes include:

Exostosis: This occurs when extra bone forms in the lower jaw and presses into the tender underside of the tongue. If you eat hard or crunchy foods and accidentally poke this spot, it can get irritated.

Canker Sores:  They are usually considered the main cause of these spots here or anywhere on the tongue. These spots tend to appear one at a time and are usually the result of a virus, says the University of Maryland Medical Center, though mouth injuries, food allergies, and stress may also be to blame.

On the back

Red spots may develop on the back of the tongue for various reasons. While most reasons are not at all serious. However, it’s a good idea to be able to identify your spot so as you can seek the appropriate lifestyle changes or treatments. Some of the causes include:

  • Fungiform Papillae which are natural small spots and they show up when you’ve experienced some sort of trauma or irritation in the mouth.
  • Circumvallate Papillae are red bumps, which tend to be larger than other bumps on more forward areas of the tongue.
  • Digestive problems like acid reflux
  • Oral thrush
  • Throat problems

How to get rid of red spots on the tongue – home remedies and treatments

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For those who prefer home remedies, they deserve to know that these remedies are preventive and help reduce some of the side effects of having red spots on tongue. Common home remedies to give a try include:

  • Maintain oral health such brushing daily.
  • Avoid food and products that increase discomfort.
  • Gargle with a warm saltwater solution.
  • Drink cold or cool liquids.

Treatments are often tied to the underlying cause of these red bumps on your tongue. You first need a diagnosis to verify the actual cause. In general, try:

  • Use throat lozenges or sprays.
  • Rinse with an antiseptic or anesthetic mouthwash.
  • Consult your doctor.