Some COVID-19 patients reporting new symptom affecting their tongue

Patients who contracted COVID-19 are reporting a new symptom that is impacting their ability to talk and eat.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Headaches, brain fog, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue are just some of the lingering symptoms people may have if they had COVID-19.

But now doctors are seeing patients coming in with a new symptom that is impacting their ability to talk and eat.

You won your battle with COVID-19, but the war is not over just yet. According to the CDC, 35% of people infected with COVID-19 will experience lingering headaches, coughs, heart problems, balance issues and more, lasting weeks or even months. Now a new rare symptom is showing up in doctors’ offices called macroglossia, or an enlarged tongue.

“What we call a true massive macroglossia is what we’re seeing is when it’s hanging past their chin that’s coming down almost kind of appendage,” said James Melville, DDS, of the UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry.

However, the condition is not a direct side effect of COVID-19, but rather a symptom of some treatments for COVID-19.

“It was associated with long-term intubation,” Melville said.

Most COVID-19 patients who develop macroglossia had a history of being in the prone position where they were turned over on their stomachs to get more oxygen in their lungs.

“Because of the giant tongue, they can’t talk, can’t go out in public, can’t eat by mouth, so their quality of life is extremely poor,” Melville said.

To treat the condition, compression wrapping may work. But Melville said the most effective treatment is tongue reduction surgery.

“The surgery itself takes about 45 minutes. It’s not a long, complicated surgery either,” he said.

It’s an effective solution to a growing problem.

Most of the patients that have developed macroglossia have been African American or Black. Melville is currently doing a study to find out if there is a genetic factor that can be causing the condition in certain populations.