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Mouth Diseases

Acute painful lump in tongue of teenager



My 13-year old son had a 102 fever 5 days ago that came and went in 24 hours. He seemed fine. Today - 4 days later - he woke up with possible pink eye (red eye and goopy) and a sore throat. He also reported a feeling of a lump inside his tongue, center, about 1/8" from the front. There is no surface ulcer. He says the lump is very painful. I could not feel this lump, although the tongue did feel somewhat harder in that area when squeezed gently. Is it possible that the tongue problem is related to the virus that is causing his other symptoms? Of course, if it doesn`t go away, we will call the doctor, but would love some expert advice as well.


It is difficult to say what this could be without doing an examination. Occasionally people will develop what is known as a tongue abscess. Such an abscess is usually a solitary problem and not related to any viral infection or a more widespread bacterial infection.

Another condition that could cause pain toward the tip of the tongue would be "transient lingual papillitis", which is caused by accidentally scraping off the top of one of the fungiform papillae ("taste buds") on the top of the tongue. If it does not resolve within the next few days, or if it seems to get larger and more painful, you should consult an oral surgeon or an oral pathologist. The tip of the tongue is not an area where serious things occur commonly, however.

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Response by:

Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD
Professor Emeritus of Oral Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University