What is Caviar Tongue? Its Causes, Common Sites, Treatment and FAQs

Many of us might be unaware of the fact that our tongue, contrary to what most of us think, is not just an organ for taste perception. There is a broad range of diseases that affects the tongue and its clinical analysis helps the physician to reach the diagnosis. A thorough examination of the tongue helps in identifying systemic illnesses like hypertension, anaemia, diabetes Mellitus or precancerous lesions like Lichen Planus or some other fungal infections like drug-induced oral candidiasis in patients undergoing chemotherapy or tumours such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, lymphangioma or haemangioma etc.
One such important clinical finding that the tongue presents with is that of ‘Caviar Tongue‘.

 

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What is Caviar Tongue?

Caviar tongue, also known as sublingual varicosities is the condition in which large dilated purplish-black distended veins that look similar to caviar (eggs of fish ‘sturgeon’) are detected in the oral cavity.

Common Sites Involving Sublingual Varicosities are:

  • Ventral surface of the tongue ( most common site, hence, the name is caviar tongue).
  • Floor of mouth
  • The lateral surface underneath the tongue near sublingual glands (hence, the name sublingual varicosities)
  • Other uncommon sites where this condition may appear are lips & buccal mucosa.

What Causes Caviar Tongue?

Many systemic conditions might result in the Caviar Tongue. Some of these include

  • Elevated venous pressure as in the case of portal hypertension or superior vena cava syndrome.
  • May be associated with the angiokeratoma of the scrotum in the males.
  • Nutritional deficiency of vitamins like Vitamin C.
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Some studies have shown that smoking deficiencies to this condition.

Who can have Caviar Tongue?

caviar tongue

Caviar tongue is most commonly observed among people of older age groups. Most commonly in the 4th-5th decades of life. The scientific reason behind this is that with advancing age the walls of blood vessels (here veins) start thinning out and their elastic fibres are degraded, resulting in their loosening, which leads to increased blood pressure in them. Thus, resulting in a purple-black appearance on the affected surface. When sublingual varicosities are seen in younger age groups it is presented as a sign of early ageing (premature ageing) which may be an indicator of some underlying systemic disease.

Treatment of Caviar Tongue

Caviar Tongue does not need any treatment as such. However, if it is present on the lips or the buccal surface of the mucosa, sclerotherapy or photocoagulation with a high-intensity laser can be performed for aesthetic purposes.

In patients with Vitamin C deficiency, supplements should be taken as prophylactic measures.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding Sublingual Varicosities.

Is Caviar Tongue a Dangerous condition?

No, Caviar Tongue does not cause any interference with the normal physiology of the tongue. It is a benign & asymptomatic condition that occurs physiologically due to advancing age.

Varicosis Sublingual

Varicosis Sublingual

Can Caviar Tongue spread through kissing?

Caviar Tongue is not an infectious disease. It is just a benign condition. Hence, it can not spread through close physical contact like kissing etc.

Is Caviar Tongue Painful?

Caviar Tongue just causes aesthetic problems to the patients. Otherwise, it does not cause any pain or tenderness as such.

References

Pasquale, M., Bierma, N. L. K. (2011). Every Tribe and Tongue: A Biblical Vision for Language in Society. United States: Pickwick Publications.

NCBI – WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic. (2011). National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21220892/

Sheth, P. (2010, December 31). Caviar tongue. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology. https://ijdvl.com/caviar-tongue/

Dr Deepak Kansal

Dr Deepak Kansal is a dentist, who is currently working in Sri Ganganagar. He did his Bachelor of Dental Surgery from Rajasthan University of Health Science.

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