Why do I get a little bump on the tip of my tongue when I eat a lot of sugar?

- Asks Stephanie from Claremont, CA

The result of having a bit too much sugar? [Credit: Robert Brannon]
By | Posted February 18, 2008
Posted in: Ever Wondered?, Health
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You’re at the movies, and the lure of a box of candy is too much for you to resist. You are so caught up in the action that before you know it, the box is gone. Soon, you start feeling a little sick, hyped up on all that sugar, and to top it all off there are a few small, yet slightly painful bumps on the tip of your tongue.

What exactly are those things?

Discounting the old wives’ tale that blamed the bumps on telling lies (thus the name “lie bumps”), the real answer is likely transient lingual papillitis (TLP). TLP is an inflammation of the round, mushroom-shaped structures that house taste buds called fungiform papillae. There is no single cause of TLP, and many factors have been implicated, including certain foods, stress and gastrointestinal disorders.

Although some people report having the bumps after eating raw vegetables, acidic and sugary foods tend to be the main causes of TLP. TLP varies from person to person, which is why it is believed that many factors can bring about its onset. While you may get the annoying bumps with every sugary indulgence, your best friend may satisfy his or her sweet tooth while being unable to eat a lime. The good news is that TLP is not dangerous and typically clears up on its own in a few days. Rinsing with salt water or mouthwash is sometimes helpful, and good oral hygiene is never a bad thing.

TLP was first diagnosed as such in 1996 in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology. Prior to 1996, there is little documentation of the condition, and there is still not much known about it except that while it may be a nuisance, it is not dangerous.

A related condition to TLP is ELP, eruptive lingual papillitis. This condition is almost identical except that it typically starts in children 5 years of age or younger, and unlike TLP, it has been found to spread to the child’s family members. A 2004 study in the British Journal of Dermatology found that affected children experienced not only the typical bumps, but also difficulty in feeding, excessive salivation and in some cases fever and swollen lymph nodes. Like TLP, little is known about the cause of this condition, but since it was found to spread to family members, many doctors think it is an infection.

As a note of caution, not all tongue bumps are simple taste bud inflammation. If the bumps persist for more than a few days they could be an indication of something more serious, like the herpes simplex virus-1. The herpes virus is known to cause sores on the lips and tongue. These sores will differ from simple taste bud inflammation in that they will last longer and often ooze a yellowy liquid after a few days. The sores also often follow a fever or cold like symptoms. If you think you might have herpes, you should consult your doctor immediately.

To sum up, the bumps on your tongue are likely nothing more than simple inflammation. While there is no single cause, if you think the bumps might be due to excessive sugar intake, they probably are. So go ahead and splurge on those Sour Patch Kids! Your tongue is in no danger, even if your teeth might be.

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  1. omg, i have these exact bumps on my tongue and they are SO annoying. i have a bad habit of biting them off and making myself bleed; is this a problem?

    stephanie chapa, December 1, 2008 at 1:28 pm
  2. Thanks for this artice! I am in school and my friend is suffering from an inflamed taste bud right now- those suckers hurt! Now we understand what they are caused by.

    Leah, February 12, 2009 at 1:10 pm
  3. Thaaaaaank you for posting this! I have been looking for an answer to what these bumps are for the longest time. None of my friends seem to get them and even some of my doctors didn’t know.

    Holly, April 23, 2009 at 1:20 am
  4. I have been researching this and there is not a lot of information on it. I really didn’t even know they were called lie bumps. They are really annoying but not contagious. I have read a lot that it has to do with certain foods or biting your tongue. I have not found anything stating that it might have something to do with exposure to extreme heat, which is something that I have heard since I was small. I think it does have to do with heat exposure because I spent a few hours out in 105f weather and got a few after several hours.

    aniy, July 1, 2009 at 8:21 pm
  5. how do you get rid of IT!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!

    savannah, May 11, 2010 at 8:45 pm
  6. I have had these all my life and they can be so painful, especially if you bite them. I have found a direct relationship to when I have too much sugar. Anyway, as painful as this sounds, I brush my tongue (bumpy area) with toothpaste and it seems to make it go away very quickly.

    Scott, December 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm
  7. Thanks for posting this i thought i had a very serious problem but what you have explain is what I been going through time after time it comes then goes and it is so painful when you try to do anything to it and plus I been told that they are called lieing bumps also which I thought was ridiclous so I been searching and searching and now I finally found the solution.

    karla, December 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm
  8. It’s called lingual papilitis..cause not know, not harmful but more annoying!! However, it could be herpes simplex. Hope this helps :-)

    Diane Brookes, May 31, 2011 at 5:54 am
  9. I get a bumpy, painful inflammation of the tongue when I smoke too much. I normally don’t smoke except when I drink alcohol, and maybe there is a relationship there. All the same I find relief with abstaining from both and the passage of time, also avoiding acidic foods and beverages for a couple of days.

    Kathy Mulholland-Isabell, July 22, 2011 at 6:20 pm
  10. I would try to find what makes it inflamed and not do that thing of a week or so and if it helps :)

    Erin, November 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm
  11. I usually only get one of these white bumps, (on the very tip of my tongue). They usually only last a day or two. However, on this occasion I have a small cluster of five or so (all localised in the same area on the tip of my tongue). They really smart when your teeth brush past them or whilst eating. I have been doing some of my own research on transient lingual papillitis & i believe i have a papalokkeratotis variant from comparing photos online. The only Virus I am aware of that I am continually plagued with flare ups/outbreaks is Herpes Simplex Type 2. I believe there must be a link somehow as I don’t suffer from gastrointestinal issues nor do I suffer from any current or previous skin condition therefore there must be some type of relation between the HPV & the transient lingual papillitis? Hmm…

    Charlotte-Elizabeth Rae, January 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm
  12. “Prior to 1996, there is little documentation of the condition.” Really?? Maybe not in scientific journals but I’ve had problems when eating sweets or some acidic foods since I was a kid in the 60′s. I asked my Dad and he knew exactly what I was talking about and had the same problem. I do appreciate the medical explanation found here.

    David, February 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm
  13. @Charlotte-Elizabeth Rae.. thanks for ur post. i’ve had one bump daybefore and if irritates like hell. don’t wanna get more nof these and wanna make this one dissappear.. also thanks to ppl for posting soln to the prob..

    Tejus, February 20, 2012 at 8:27 am
  14. I had a wisdom tooth removed and I haven’t been able to open my mouth much the past 4 days. The nerve in the tip of my tongue isn’t working right at the moment as my doc says and it’s numb so I find myself biting at it for the feeling to come back. I have about 4 lie bumps on my tongue and they are hurting VERY VERY bad!! Could someone tell me how to get rid of them!? It’s pretty bad! THANKS!

    Alyssa, July 4, 2012 at 12:51 am
  15. i get them too except their on the side of my tongue. for me, drinking water makes them better. eating raw veggies makes it worse. sometimes they happen because i’m hot and dehydrated, so it occurs in the summer

    iAnnie, August 26, 2012 at 11:13 am
  16. I hate getting these things! It takes all the fun out of eating candy :(

    mary, November 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm
  17. I get these a lot and they’re very annoying. I find that if I use a Listerine strip shortly after having sugar, I don’t get the bumps, and if I get the bump but use a listerine strip, it goes away pretty quickly. Hope that helps others, too!

    carie, November 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm
  18. it’s an allergy to pesticides n other fertilizers, which are used to grow sugar crops and other fruits. I too have experienced these same symptoms for over 3 decades. I am free of the allergic reaction eating organic produce and organic brown cane sugar. the downside is, they’re expensive. but, in the long run, better for us.

    remmy marquez, November 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm
  19. It sounds just like the bumps I have but what are the one on the side of ur toungh?

    Aziyah, February 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm
  20. Hah! I knew it had to be something with sugar! The exact words I typed into Bing was, “What are those bumps you get on your tongue after eating sugary things?”

    I never get them, and when I do, I only get like one or two, nothing like the display picture (that would SUCK!) I only get them when I eat a lot of Lifesavers Wint-O-Green mints. Heh. Guilty pleasure.

    Heather, March 7, 2013 at 12:40 am
  21. I have been getting one on the tip of my tongue, I eliminated smoking first and then other foods after and I still got one, I was drinking a Monster beverage almost everyday so I tried stopping that and have never gotten one again. everyone different I guess. This sure seemed like the cause to me because I drank a couple months later and I felt it getting sore the next day.

    Dave, March 22, 2013 at 9:15 pm
  22. I have had these painfully irritating white bumps on the end of my tongue for the past few days… and from the above reading, my suspicions appear correct… the acidity of JD & cola and all the chocolate eggs over Easter has caused them! Time to go back to my usual no chocolate diet and no cola diet.

    Elizabeth, April 4, 2013 at 4:10 am
  23. I have had these before too, The FIRST time I experienced this was in 2007 and a few times in 2008, The last time I had them were in 2008 & now I have gotten them back in 2013.

    They’re very annoying often forming on the tip of my tongue & usually start out as just 1 and turn into a cluster of them. Only once did I have 1 that did not turn into a cluster & that time it went away fast.

    However, Every-time I got these and it formed a cluster of them it would last several days to a week, One time lasted nearly 2 weeks!

    MY CAUSE: Every time I have ever gotten them, From the time I first got them and all the times in between up until now, I could not link it to one specific thing. TWO MAIN THINGS.. MINT (From mint candies & Mint mouthwash) + Typically a very hot body temperature/dry mouth which likely was dehydrated.

    Both always occurred before I would get these. Once I took the time to try and recount things that may have caused this I figured these were the most likely and around 2008 when I had a real bad case that caused me such severe pain and wanting an answer I went to the doctor and they even mentioned possibly from dehydration/Mint.. Though he did not give an answer to why he suspected mint it had matched what i had come to the conclusion of, So, That’s what causes these for me!

    They can be annoying all the way to very painful. Applying Salt over the top of them seemed to help get rid of them for me. I left the salt on my tongue for minutes (and yes it caused them to hurt more) but would usually seem to like pop them almost or something after doing that a few times. Also drinking acidic drinks and leaving the drink in your mouth on top of where your sores are seemed to help me get rid of them.

    Walter, May 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm
  24. Narrowed my trigger recently. I only get them after eating a generous amount of potato chips. I don’t eat many other salty foods, so I think the K+Na combination is what’s causing the irritation.

    Vlad, August 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm
  25. Good to know what they are and how you
    get them how to get rid of them?

    chad, August 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm
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