A woman looking in a mirror with her tongue out

The New COVID Symptoms Recently Found Affect The Mouth

One of the latest studies shows presence of the virus in full view

A woman looking in a mirror with her tongue out
This new COVID symptom affects the mouth and tongue | iStock

As we approach the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, much has changed in SARS-CoV-2 research. In these twelve long months, it has been possible to reach the conclusion of the symptoms that the virus causes in the organism. These symptoms affect the respiratory, neurological, digestive and dermatological systems.

But now, a study carried out by the Hospital Universitario La Paz in Madrid has reported another symptom that directly affects the tongue and oral mucosa, which has been seen in several COVID-19 patients.

The mouth suffers from the ravages of the virus

The website Sciencedirect has published the results of this latest study initiated last April at the IFEMA field hospital, where more than 600 COVID-19 patients were admitted. Seventy-eight of the patients presented oral mucosal disorders, the most common being transient anterior U-shaped lingual papillitis. Stomatitis, aphthous ulcers, mucositis, tongue inflammation, burning sensation, among others, were also frequent. Most of these alterations were closely linked to the loss of taste.

The study on this type of symptoms has not been analyzed in detail due to the high risk of contagion involved in the examination: "The oral manifestations related to COVID-19 disease have been little described, probably because of the fear of contagion during the examination or the scarcity of protective equipment during the first wave" explain the experts who have participated in the study in which doctors from the health center in Colmenarejo and the dermatology service from the Hospital Universitario de Móstoles.

Until now, the most common symptom was the loss of taste which, on occasions, was also accompanied by the loss of smell. Dry mouth "the cause of which may be the binding of the virus to the ACE-2 receptors of the salivary glands, which would cause their destruction" has also been observed in people affected by coronavirus.

The tongue increases in size

Months ago it was discovered that the virus affects the tongue considerably. In this study, the researchers go a step further and explain the transformations that occur in the tongue as a consequence of COVID-19.

"We have discovered findings that we consider characteristic in the tongue, such as lingual edema, with a characteristic indentation on the sides of the tongue, due to the increase in the size of the tongue and the rubbing against the teeth. And for the same reason, there is an inflammation of the anterior papillae, which we have called transient U-shaped lingual papillitis," they explain.

In this regard, the researchers have referred to this type of condition as 'Covid tongue': "Glossitis with patchy depapillation -inflammation of the tongue- in 3.9% of patients. This finding has been previously reported in an isolated case, curiously associated with burning mouth. Recently, this type of tongue has been termed 'Covid tongue': it resembles geographic tongue but its incidence is increased in COVID-19 patients," they say.


Many of the causes of bad breath have to do with the condition of our tongues. However, researchers have found that some patients with COVID-19 have a halitosis problem that they did not previously have. The level of sulfur compounds is key to finding out the cause of halitosis.

The health workers found that coronavirus patients had very high levels of sulfur compounds as a result of the virus and that they returned to normal levels after overcoming the disease: "This may be due to the direct involvement of the oral mucosa by SARS-CoV-2 or indirectly to the destruction of salivary glands and dry mouth," explain the researchers.

The team led by Almudena Nuño assures that they have only been able to carry out the study in people who have presented pneumonia and that they have not investigated asymptomatic cases or those with a mild clinical picture. However, they defend the research by stating that "there are lesions in the oral cavity associated with COVID-19" and that "they may be the initial symptomatology of the disease".

[This is a translation of the original article "Encuentran nuevos síntomas del coronavirus que afectan a la boca" published in espanadiario.net]