By Ethan A. Huff
The texture and appearance of your tongue says a lot about the state of your health. And new technology outlined in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology suggests that it might soon be possible for trained physicians to conduct digital analyses of people’s tongues in order to diagnose illness.
Karthik Ramamurthy and his colleagues from VIT University in India successfully developed a protocol that combines digital imagery of tongue patterns with soft input analysis to determine whether or not a person is sick. Digitized imagery that maps the color, size, and texture of a person’s tongue can be used, they say, to assess whether or not disease is present and treatment is needed.
According to a summary of the team’s findings, a smooth or “beefy” looking tongue may indicate that a person is deficient in B vitamins, iron or folate. If the tongue appears blacker than normal, a patient may be damaged from taking too many antibiotics, or perhaps has HIV or a fungal overgrowth. Ulcers on the tongue can also indicate the presence of colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Using these and other methods of analysis, researchers say they are one step closer to automating the diagnostic process so that diseases as severe as pulmonary edema, or as basic as the common cold, can be more quickly and accurately diagnosed. By combining tongue mapping technology with the normal symptom assessment process, physicians will gain a leg up on diagnosing and treating ailments.
“A healthy tongue should be pink, clean and covered in papillae, which contain taste buds,” explains the Daily Mail Online about what doctors will be looking for. “But inflamed, red, black or white tongues could be a sign of other conditions such as thrush, while a swollen tongue can be a sign of an allergic reaction.”
Disease detection neural network to eventually include eye imagery
This combined approach to disease diagnosis is part of a unique and expanding neural network designed by Ramamurthy and his team to more holistically diagnose disease. Since the tongue is a major indicator of bodily abnormalities, it is an important piece of the puzzle in determining how best to treat patients.
As explained in a more detailed report on oral cavity and tongue indicators of disease published by the International Medical College, both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine utilize tongue and oral cavity assessments in diagnosing illness. The following correlations have been established as suggestive indicators of disease:
Measles: Koplik’s spots
Scarlet fever: Strawberry tongue
Rubella: Petechial lesions on the palate and uvula
Whooping cough: Traumatic ulceration of the lingual fraenum
Varicella (chickenpox): Macular rash with central vesicles; round erosions
Infectious mononucleosis: Aphthous stomatitis, hemorrhage, ulcerative tonsillitis
Diphtheria: Pseudomembranous stomatitis
Syphilis: See interstitial glossitis (luetic glossitis), precancerous lesion in the tertiary stage
Immune deficiency syndrome (e.g. AIDS)
Herpes simplex: See herpetic stomatitis
EBV: See hairy leukoplakia
HHV-8 (human herpesvirus 8): See Kaposi’s sarcoma
More on indicators of mucosal, skin, and connective tissue disorders; hematological diseases; drug poisonings; vitamin deficiencies and disorders; metabolic disorders and endocrinopathies; cardiovascular diseases; and other chronic diseases are available here:
Ramamurthy’s system is currently capable of diagnosing 14 distinct conditions using digitized tongue analysis and soft input analysis. Eventually, he and his team plan to add eye imagery to the mix, which will serve as an additional hard input to the larger neural network, allowing for an expanded repertoire of conditions.
To learn more about tongue analysis, and how each area of the tongue reveals the health of the various bodily systems, be sure to check out the Mirror of the Body course: