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Very tiny red small dots on back of tongue

Resolved Question:

Hi Doctor,

During the last few days I have had a bit of discomfort when swallowing, especially after drinking water. It feels there is something tiny stuck in my throat.

I went to the doctor yesterday and he said everything is fine. But today I realized the back of my tongue has some very tiny red small dots/bumps. In fact, I think is because of those red bumps that is giving me the discomfort when swallowing. I used my hand to touch them that there were more near further back center of the tongue.

Below is the photo I took

I've been Googling on the web for a while and some say it could be Syphilis, herpes or even HIV.

I will be making another appointment to see the doctor but probably won't have time until this Friday.

Just hoping to get some advice on what it could be.



Category: Family Physician-GP

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Dr. Deepu Sebin Sebastian is online now

Expert:  Dr. Deepu Sebin Sebastian replied 4 Days.

Hello Mr.King,

Thank you for asking your query at DoctorSpring.

These swellings in the back of the tongue are NOT symptoms of Syphilis, Herpes, HIV or anything serious.

These swellings are in fact caused by the enlargement of some taste buds in the back of the tongue. These are called “enlarged circumvallate papillae”. These normal taste buds (arranged in a V shape), which might have got enlarged do to an infection (as in a minor viral infection), irritation or from allergy (from food). These swellings usually resolve by itself and are not harmful. Another rare possibility is a Ebner’s gland (a kind of salivary gland) swellings. These glands are also located in the posterior of the tongue along with the papillae. This is also harmless and will resolve by itself. The causes and the treatment are same for both of the conditions.

I recommend the following for faster resolution of the lesions.

1. Mild Saline Gargle in warm water, twice a day. (Make sure the water is not too hot or salty)
2. Use Chloerhexidine containing mouthwash just before sleep. Rinse the mouth.
3. Avoid spicy food.

The lesion should resolve in less than a week with the above measures.
If that is not the case further evaluation might be need.
Hope this helps
Please feel free to ask followup questions.

Patient replied :

Hi Dr Deepu,

Thank you very much for your prompt informative reply.

I will follow your suggested solution and see how I go in the next few days.

However, just want to confirm one last thing, that is if you see my new uploaded image. Do you mean the part that I've circled in blue are the "enlarged circumvallate papillae" (those tiny small red bumps)? or are you referring to another part of my tongue that you see is swelling?

Thanks again

Expert:  Dr. Deepu Sebin Sebastian replied 3 Days.


Yes those blue colour marked ones are the suspected circumvallate papillae / Ebner's gland enlargement. Please make sure that your not overdoing the steps (use mild warm water with a little salt). In case if the symptoms persist you may have to get medical help for further evaluation.

Thank you

Dr. Deepu Sebin Sebastian
Category: Select Speciality
MD, Internal Medicine - Stanley Medical School
Medical School - MBBS - Govt. Medical College, Kottyaam

Diagnostic Prediction - Stanford School of Medicine
Received Specialty training in Critical Care, Cardiology, Neurology, Gastroenterology, Nephrology from Stanley Medical College and in Endocrinology, Rheumatology.

Hematology and Geriatrics from Madras Medical College.
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