Massively Swollen Tongue: A Rare COVID-19 Symptom [Video]

  • A few cases of macroglossia have been seen among COVID-19 patients in the US.
  • Macroglossia causes tongue swelling that makes eating and talking difficult.
  • Among the nine covid-19 patients in the US who developed macroglossia, eight are Black. 

COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals are experiencing severely swollen tongues, a condition known as macroglossia. 

According to Dr. James Melville, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry (UTHealth), there have been nine documented cases of macroglossia among the 33 million COVID-19 patients recorded in the U.S. since the pandemic started.

All nine had been intubated in the hospital, two had suffered strokes, while the other seven were hospitalized with COVID before developing macroglossia. Eight of them are Black. 

According to Melville, who has conducted several operations to treat macroglossia patients, the condition can cause difficulty eating and talking. 

Although the link between the virus and the condition is still unclear, Melville said the patients’ tongues had inflammatory cells. 

Melville told KHOU 11: “I think it has a lot to do with where the virus is attaching itself and the body’s immune response to it.”

Anthony Jones from Lake City, Florida, one of the patients treated by Melville, had survived COVID-19 after getting hospital treatment for more than a month. However, his tongue was still massively swollen. Anthony’s doctor said surgery couldn’t guarantee whether Anthony could ever talk or eat again. Anthony’s mother, Mary Ann Jones, told UTHealth News: “Anthony started crying like he was giving up and I said, ‘Don’t worry baby, we will find someone to help you.’ The look on his face after the doctor left hurt my heart so bad.”

Mary Ann Jones search online for more information about his son’s condition. She found a study published by Melville and contacted him for help. Melville told UTHealth News that Jones was suffering from massive macroglossia.

Melville also explained that macroglossia patients have to be fed through a tube and need a permanent tracheostomy for an airway, which poses an infection risk. Their tongue also dries out, so it needs to be wrapped to prevent it from cracking and bleeding, Melville said. 

Within a week after Melville performed a partial glossectomy on Jones, the patient can speak and slowly begin to swallow fluids and soft solids again.

According to Melville, the 45-minute surgery “allows for full feeling, full functional speech and close to 100 percent taste back. The tongue is 95 percent muscle so it heals quickly.”

Melville is now trying to find out whether a certain genetic characteristic is present among the COVID-19 patients with macroglossia to understand how to prevent it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms, while some people don’t experience any symptoms at all.

Some of the most common symptoms affect the respiratory system. But some studies show that it can also cause confusion, skin lesions, and swollen eyelids. 

Source: Newsweek

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