Macroglossia: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

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What Is Macroglossia? 

So, for starters, let’s establish what macroglossia actually is. Macroglossia, also known as an oversized tongue, is a medical condition that causes people to have abnormally large tongues. It’s a condition that largely affects children. However, adults may have it too, although to a much rarer degree. Macroglossia also usually affects people born with Down syndrome or Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. Some individuals might also develop it due to certain forms of cancer, diabetes, or serious infections. 

This condition might cause the patient to have increased snoring and abnormal breathing noises, as well as more troublesome side effects, such as trouble eating and swallowing. The good thing is that macroglossia is treatable. From speech therapy and braces to medication and surgery, there are several different ways to fix it. Wearing braces, such as Invisalign, is a popular way to treat this condition. And if you’re looking for an Invisalign dentist, you can click this link and learn more about the services we offer.  

Symptoms Of Macroglossia 

But how can you tell if you have macroglossia and what are the usual symptoms? Well, there are a few of them, and they include the following:

  • A protruding tongue
  • Troubles speaking, breathing, and processing food
  • Snoring
  • Drooling
  • Stridor 
  • Misalignment of the jaw and teeth
  • Recurring trauma to the tongue, such as biting

Now, simply having a large tongue doesn’t necessarily mean you suffer from macroglossia. Some people have larger tongues by nature. But the difference between a large tongue and an enlarged tongue caused by macroglossia is mainly the food processing problems that come with it. Another tell-tale sign is breathing issues. If you notice these symptoms overlapping, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of macroglossia.

Macroglossia Causes

Many different conditions might have a major role in causing macroglossia. Firstly, it’s important to note that macroglossia rarely comes alone, meaning that people with it tend to suffer from other medical conditions. So, macroglossia often functions more as a symptom than a condition itself. It’s roften somewhat of a sign of another condition that the patient either acquires or is born with. Sometimes it’s even medications or surgical treatments that can play a part in triggering this condition. Regardless, below we will discuss the different conditions that cause this disorder.

Inherited Conditions That Cause Macroglossia

Macroglossia is tied to a few different medical conditions. Here’s some information on them:

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome is a growth disorder, meaning that it causes the patient’s body and organs to be enlarged. It’s a genetic disorder and varies in severity. The majority of children diagnosed with this disorder also suffer from macroglossia.
  • Hurler/Hunter syndrome (mucopolysaccharidosis) is actually a group of different diseases. This condition causes the inability to break down sugar molecules. That can influence many other functions of the body as well. Many patients who suffer from this condition also have macroglossia to deal with as well. 
  • Down syndrome is a genetic disorder, and people born with this disorder have an extra chromosome. Many individuals with Down syndrome suffer from macroglossia.

Acquired Conditions That Cause Macroglossia

It’s not only inherited conditions that cause macroglossia; sometimes, conditions you acquire as you age can cause it too. Some of these conditions are:

  • Amyloidosis is a rare condition that prevents organs and tissues from working properly, and macroglossia is one of the common symptoms of this disorder.
  • Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes your thyroid gland to not release the proper amount of thyroid hormone into the bloodstream. It essentially causes your metabolism to slow down. This condition is a common cause of macroglossia when it comes to children. 
  • Diphtheria is a severe infection caused by bacteria. Having this infection might also cause your tongue to swell up.
  • Acromegaly is another rare condition. Acromegaly causes the patient’s body to release an abnormal amount of growth hormone. It can affect different parts of a person’s body, such as feet, hands, jaw, and tongue. 

Tumors That Cause Macroglossia 

On occasion, macroglossia can also be a sign of different tumors, both cancerous and benign, and these tumors include:

  • Lymphangioma is a benign tumor that develops in the person’s lymphatic system. It can cause fluid-filled cysts to appear on the mucous membrane of the patient’s mouth. 
  • Hemangioma is, luckily, another benign tumor. These types of tumors grow from the blood vessels.
  • Lymphoma is a cancerous tumor that affects the patient’s lymph system.

Macroglossia Treatments

Macroglossia is a decently researched condition, and there are many different ways to treat it. 

Speech Therapy 

As we’ve established, macroglossia can cause speech problems, which can interfere with a person’s everyday life. Speech therapy is often recommended for the milder causes of speech therapy and is a popular method to treat the condition in children.

Braces

Braces are another popular form of treatment for macroglossia. After all, the orthodontic approach is a standard way to treat this condition. Invisalign and other types of clear braces are a quick and simple way to deal with macroglossia. Clear braces are also healthier than their metal counterparts and are more efficient in aligning your teeth and fixing any dental problems macroglossia is known to cause. 

Medication

Medications are usually recommended for cases of macroglossia caused by hormone imbalance. So, your doctor might prescribe a form of hormone therapy if that’s the case. 

Surgery 

Surgery, as a form of macroglossia treatment, is reserved for the more severe cases of this condition. If macroglossia is causing you severe breathing problems or preventing you from eating, your doctor will recommend immediate surgery. But don’t fret; the surgical procedure itself is rather simple and has a recovery time of only a few weeks. 

What Happens If Macroglossia Is Left Untreated? 

If you let macroglossia go untreated, you might find yourself experiencing some of the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort
  • Pain
  • A dry mouth
  • Frequent infections
  • Speech problems

Like with many other conditions, there are risks to leaving macroglossia untreated. Letting macroglossia go untreated isn’t a good idea, even in milder cases. If you catch yourself having symptoms of it, you should contact your doctor and ask for their professional opinion. 

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