Macroglossia is a condition in which the tongue is very large. Sometimes called enlarged tongue or giant tongue, this is an oral pathology that can cause a number of problems for the patient. Some people are born with this condition, and some develop it later in life. Some patients have it as a result of a condition they were born with while others get it through incidents like traumas.
If you or your child have this problem, there are treatments available so that it can be lessened and stopped from causing frustrating problems. Macroglossia can be present all by itself, or it may be related to another condition that the patient has. In either case, it’s important to see an oral surgeon about the problem to find out how it can be treated for the best results.
What Is Macroglossia?
This condition is simply the enlargement of the tongue to an abnormal size. It’s a dominant trait, so having a family history of it can make you more likely to develop it. It’s a relatively rare condition, but people each year are diagnosed with it. It causes a lot of symptoms, and it can affect people in a number of ways, including physically, socially, and emotionally.
Macroglossia is often seen along with Down syndrome, Apert syndrome, and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, though it can be found with other conditions as well. It can be an early sign that a patient has acromegaly. The way that the condition is treated often depends on what the cause is.
What Are the Symptoms?
When the tongue is enlarged, there is a wide range of symptoms that the patient may experience. They often have stridor, which is breathing that’s noisy and/or high-pitched because there is a narrower airway due to the enlarged tongue. This obstructs airflow and results in the noise. Many people have trouble eating because of the condition or have trouble being fed if they are infants.
Patients with macroglossia often snore. They may have a tongue large enough that it protrudes out of the mouth, which is the most common symptom. Many patients also have a lot of difficulty with talking and forming words correctly. They may drool and have trouble drinking anything.
With the large size of the tongue, macroglossia can lead to a patient having abnormal development of their teeth and even the jaw. This can then result in teeth that protrude or are misaligned. Another symptom is the tip of the tongue having sores or even having dying tissue. When any of the symptoms of this condition are present, the patient needs a health exam in order to diagnose them with macroglossia. The doctor will probably also take a family history of the patient, as it can run in families.
Causes of Macroglossia
In some patients, losing their teeth and not getting dentures can lead to the tongue enlarging. Often, macroglossia is a secondary condition that shows up with a primary one. When a patient has it, it can also be a sign that they have an acquired disorder that’s causing it. This can include tumors, infectious diseases, inflammatory diseases, and disorders of the metabolic/endocrine system.
While people can spontaneously be born with it with no family history and no associated condition, this is extremely rare. Generally, it comes about because of genetics. A dominant genetic disorder like macroglossia can be transmitted to the next generation by just one copy of this abnormal gene that causes it. This means that only one parent has to have the condition in order for the child to be born with it. In some cases, the gone is a new mutation in the patient. There is a 50% probability of passing along the gene to a child, and the same risk exists for both boys and girls.
There are a number of treatments available, and surgery is one of them. Sometimes, orthodontic procedures are needed as well. There are some young patients who actually outgrow macroglossia over time as their facial bones grow and they have more space for their tongues. The first step is to get a diagnosis. This is often done by a doctor or dentist.
Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will consider the patient’s unique case and will either come up with a treatment plan or refer them to an oral surgeon. Some patients need to have corticosteroid medications to help with the swelling. Around 10% of the patients who have this condition need surgery. This will reduce their tongue size for better comfort and easier eating and talking.
At DFW Oral Surgeons, we can consult with you about the condition and provide you with the surgery you need if it’s warranted. We give every patient personalized care and ensure that they’re always comfortable during both consultations and surgeries.