What causes and how to treat macroglossia?

Symptom Database

Macroglossia, also known as tongue enlargement, is a condition characterized by an abnormally large tongue. This condition can occur in both adults and children and can be caused by various factors. Macroglossia can lead to difficulties in speaking, eating, and breathing, making it essential to understand its causes and seek appropriate treatment. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for macroglossia, shedding light on this tongue disorder.

Causes of Macroglossia

Macroglossia can be caused by several underlying factors, including:

  • Genetic Disorders: Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, and mucopolysaccharidoses, can contribute to tongue enlargement.
  • Tumors: Both benign and malignant tumors in the tongue or surrounding areas can cause macroglossia.
  • Inflammation: Inflammatory conditions like glossitis, which is the inflammation of the tongue, can lead to tongue enlargement.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, particularly an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), can result in macroglossia.
  • Acromegaly: This rare hormonal disorder causes excessive growth hormone production, leading to various physical changes, including an enlarged tongue.

Symptoms of Macroglossia

Macroglossia can present with several noticeable symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty speaking clearly
  • Protrusion of the tongue beyond the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Breathing problems, especially during sleep
  • Changes in facial appearance
  • Snoring or sleep apnea

If you or your child experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Treatment for Macroglossia

The treatment for macroglossia depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Here are some common treatment options:

Medical Interventions

If macroglossia is caused by a tumor or inflammatory condition, medical interventions may be necessary. These can include:

  • Tumor Removal: Surgical removal of tumors in the tongue or surrounding areas can alleviate macroglossia.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications: In cases of glossitis or other inflammatory conditions, medications may be prescribed to reduce tongue swelling.
  • Hormone Therapy: If hormonal imbalances are the cause, hormone therapy may be recommended to regulate hormone levels and reduce tongue enlargement.

Speech and Occupational Therapy

For individuals experiencing difficulties in speaking or swallowing due to macroglossia, speech and occupational therapy can be beneficial. These therapies focus on improving tongue control, swallowing techniques, and overall oral motor skills.

Surgical Intervention

In severe cases of macroglossia, where the enlarged tongue significantly affects breathing or quality of life, surgical intervention may be necessary. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the individual’s condition and may involve:

  • Lingual Reduction: This procedure involves removing excess tissue from the tongue to reduce its size.
  • Lingual Advancement: In this surgery, the tongue is repositioned to improve breathing and reduce obstruction.

It is important to note that surgical intervention is typically considered a last resort and is only recommended when other treatment options have been exhausted.

Macroglossia in Adults vs. Children

Macroglossia can occur in both adults and children, but the underlying causes may differ. In adults, macroglossia is often associated with tumors, hormonal imbalances, or inflammatory conditions. On the other hand, macroglossia in children is commonly linked to genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome or Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.

Regardless of age, early diagnosis and intervention are crucial to managing macroglossia effectively. Regular dental and medical check-ups can help identify any signs of tongue enlargement and ensure appropriate treatment is provided.


Macroglossia, or tongue enlargement, can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition is essential for timely intervention and management. Whether it is through medical interventions, therapy, or surgical procedures, there are various approaches to address macroglossia and alleviate its associated difficulties. If you or your child experience symptoms of macroglossia, consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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