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Man’s tongue turns black and ‘hairy’ after suffering stroke

Man’s tongue turns black and ‘hairy’ after suffering stroke
Man was on diet of pureed food and liquids when caretakers noticed black pigmentation on his tongue

A man’s tongue turned black and “hairy” when he was put on a pureed and liquid diet after suffering from a stroke, according to a new report published in a medical journal.

The patient, who is from India, was being fed a diet of pureed food and liquids as a result of a cerebrovascular incident that paralysed his left side. About two months later, his caretakers noticed the black pigmentation on his tongue.

The case, known medically as lingua villosa nigra, was documented by doctors from the Medical Trust Hospital in Cochin, Kerala, and published in the JAMA Dermatology medical journal on 9 March. Dermatology results also showed thin, elongated, black fibers that gave the appearance of a hairy surface on his tongue.

After taking mucus samples from his tongue, doctors diagnosed the individual with “black hairy tongue (BHT)”. The patient, who is in his 50s, was given “advice regarding proper cleansing measures” and the discolouration resolved after 20 days, per the case report.

According to the Mayo Clinic, black hairy tongue results from a buildup of dead skin cells on the papillae of the tongue, which contains taste buds. These papillae can easily trap and be stained by bacteria, yeast, tobacco, food or other substances. Other possible causes of BHT include poor oral hygiene, excessive alcohol use, or changes in the mouth after antibiotic use.

An estimated 13 per cent of people develop black hairy tongue at some point in their life, although it is most common in adults over 40 years of age, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine.

The harmless condition typically does not require medical treatment and can be resolved by practicing good oral health and eliminating factors that contribute to black hairy tongue.