Oral care

Swollen glands under tongue-Causes & Treatment

Swollen glands under tongue may not be known to everyone. But, it is definitely troublesome for the people affected by this problem. Our tongue is a very important structure present in our mouth. It is made of muscle fibers. Our tongue helps in chewing of food by moving the food in the mouth and also in swallowing.

Every day we eat many different foods and enjoy the taste of these foods. We sense the taste of the foods only due to the tongue. The upper surface of the tongue contains many taste buds, which help us in sensing the taste of the food. Our tongue plays a major role in the production of speech as well.

swollen glands under tongueWe only see the upper surface of the tongue when we look in the mirror while brushing. We generally don’t bother much about the lower surface of the tongue. But, having swollen glands under tongue makes you notice about the undersurface of the tongue too.

We have many salivary glands in and around the mouth. They are the parotid glands under the cheeks, submandibular glands under the mandible or at the floor of the mouth, and sublingual glands under the tongue. They release saliva into the mouth through salivary ducts. This saliva helps in making the food moist, and also helps in digestion of the food to some extent. Saliva keeps our mouth lubricated.

The swelling under tongue is mostly caused by swollen glands under tongue, which are the salivary glands. There are sublingual salivary glands below the lower surface of the tongue which can become swollen under tongue. But, there are many other causes of swelling under tongue. Let us explore them in detail.

Swollen glands under tongue causes:

Swollen glands under tongue are the swelling of sublingual salivary glands under the tongue. This can be caused by many different reasons ranging from viral infections to stones and cancer of oral cavity. Let us explore them in detail.

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Mumps is a viral infection that affects the salivary glands and causes swelling of salivary glands. It mainly causes swelling of the parotid glands. But, it can also cause swelling under tongue due to inflammation of the sublingual glands.

Mumps can be prevented by giving MMR vaccine. In developed countries, MMR vaccine is given routinely as part of the immunization schedule. So, Mumps is not very common in these countries now. But, in developing countries vaccination is not taken by many people. So, Mumps is common in these countries even now.

Mumps is a very contagious condition. It can spread through saliva, nasal secretions and also through close contact with the affected person. It is mainly treated with rest, hydration, and analgesics.

Poor hygiene in the mouth:

We need to maintain good hygiene in our mouth or oral cavity to keep our teeth, tongue, gums and salivary glands healthy and stay protected from various bacterial and viral infections. Some people tend to neglect oral hygiene.

In such people, bacteria or viruses attack the salivary glands and cause inflammation. This inflammation of salivary glands appears like swelling under tongue. This risk is even more increased if the immune system of the person is weak.

Salivary stones:

Stones can develop in some salivary glands. These salivary stones block the salivary ducts and lead to swelling of the salivary glands. These salivary stones mostly affect the Parotid glands and Submandibular glands. But, in some people salivary stones can affect the sublingual glands too, leading to swelling under tongue. But, it is relatively a rare cause of swollen glands under tongue.


Cysts can occur in the sublingual salivary glands if there is blockage of the outflow of the saliva due to any tumors or stones or infections. These cysts cause swelling under tongue. They appear like blisters under tongue or like raised area under tongue. These cysts can affect the speech or eating of the person.

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Benign Tumors:

Salivary glands can be affected by benign or malignant tumors. Benign tumors are non-cancerous and malignant tumors are cancerous. Pleomorphic adenoma and Warthins tumor are most common tumors affecting the salivary glands. Warthins tumor affects the Parotid glands only.

Pleomorphic adenoma effects Parotid glands mainly. But, it can affect sub lingual salivary glands also. These tumors are benign or non-cancerous, and they grow very slowly. They don’t cause any pain. They are more common amongst the women. Pleomorphic adenoma causes swelling under tongue if it affects the sublingual salivary glands.

Malignant tumors or oral cancer:

Malignant tumors or oral cancer can also affect the salivary glands. They can affect all the 3 salivary glands including sublingual glands under tongue. But, they affect the parotid glands mostly. Some types of malignant tumors which can affect the salivary glands are adenocystic carcinoma, Mucoepidermoid carcinoma, Adenocarcinoma, Malignant mixed tumor. The risk of these cancers is more in people who chew tobacco. All these malignant tumors cause swollen glands under tongue.

Canker sores:

Sometimes canker sores can also cause swelling under the tongue. These canker sores cause pain under tongue along with swelling under tongue.

Sjogren’s syndrome:

It is an autoimmune disorder, in which there is autoantibodies production against the salivary glands and eyes. There is decreased production of saliva from the salivary glands leading to dry mouth. There is decreased production of tears from eyes leading to dry eyes. Also, there is presence of swollen glands under tongue.

Swollen vein under tongue:

There can be presence of swollen vein under tongue that causes swelling under tongue. It can be caused by temperature fluctuations like excessive heat or cold.

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Swollen glands under tongue Treatment:

The treatment of swollen glands under tongue depends on the exact cause of the swelling under tongue.

  • Take adequate rest. Rest helps in healing the infection faster.
  • Take analgesics and antipyretics like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen.
  • Apply ice packs or cold compresses over the swollen glands.
  • Drink proper fluids throughout the day.
  • Eat soft diet as it helps to avoid discomfort in the mouth. Don’t eat any hard foods.

There are many infections that can affect the sublingual glands and lead to swelling under tongue. If you are affected by viral infections, you will need conservative management with rest, analgesics, hydration, etc. If you are suffering from bacterial infections, you will need to take antibiotics.


Tumors are treated with surgical excision or removal. Then they might also be treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

General measures:
  • You can take certain general measures for all kinds of salivary swellings. Let us look at them:
  • Drink water or liquids at room temperature. Avoid drinking liquids with excess heat or cold, as they can cause discomfort and worsen the swelling under tongue.
  • Keep drinking plenty of water and fluids throughout the day. This is help keep your mouth and salivary glands moist.
  • If you are suffering from any infection of the salivary gland, take appropriate medicines and take rest.
  • Avoid intake of tea and coffee as they contain caffeine. Caffeine can make your mouth dry.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol until the swelling subsides.
  • Don’t chew tobacco. This can lead to oral cancer or malignant salivary tumors.
  • Apply ice cubes over the swollen glands under tongue. It provides some relief.

I hope you have understood all the different causes of swelling under tongue and also their treatment options. I will meet you again with another health related article.

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