A man, 64, went to hospital after his tongue changed colour and started growing hair – with doctors discovering the rare reaction.
A US man’s tongue turned green and hairy following a rare reaction to smoking cigarettes while simultaneously taking antibiotics.
The bizarre case has been detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine, stating the unidentified 64-year-old had reported to the doctor several weeks after his tongue changed colour and sprouted fur.
Doctors diagnosed him with a hairy tongue, “an abnormal coating” of skin cells that forms on the tongue when the filiform papillae — tiny conical protrusions containing tastebuds — become enlarged and discoloured due to a build-up of debris and bacteria.
This lends them the appearance of hairs, which can grow to nearly an inch long if the tongue is not regularly scraped.
These can, in turn, trap other substances like bacteria, food and yeast similar to an oral gill net, the New York Post reports.
A US man presented to hospital following a rare reaction to smoking while on a course of antibiotics. Picture: iStock
“Hairy tongue may appear brown, white, green, or pink, depending upon the specific cause and other factors, such as mouthwashes or even candy,” the American Academy of Oral Medicine writes.
Photos that accompany the medical journal’s post show the man’s bright green tongue complete with hairlike strands protruding upwards.
Generally caused by poor oral hygiene, the condition — which usually affects adults over 40 and is more common in men — can be exacerbated by smoking, which causes bacteria and plaque to accumulate on the tongue.
However doctors did not reveal how long the man from Ohio had been smoking.
The patients hairy tongue could have also been caused by a regimen of the antibiotic clindamycin which the man had just finished taking for a gum infection.
Taking antibiotics can upset the mouth’s microbial equilibrium by altering the number and types of bacteria and causing them to amass on the envelope sealer, according to WebMD.
Doctors didn’t specify if the victim’s ailment was fomented by smoking, antibiotic use or a combination of the two.
The smoker’s tongue turned green and began spouting hair. Picture: The New England Journal of Medicine
Thankfully, this generally temporary condition is harmless, with its worst symptom amounting to a burning sensation on the tongue.
Fortunately, patients can shave this oral patina by scouring it off with a toothbrush or tongue scraper — as was the case with the Ohio man, who was told to gently scrub his tongue with a toothbrush four times a day.
They also advised him to quit the cancer sticks.
After half a year, his oral hairline had completely receded, although he never stopped smoking.
To keep one’s tongue from sprouting hair, doctors advise practising good hygiene.
Brushing on top of the tongue with a toothbrush should be part of regular daily oral hygiene activities, it is generally advised.
This is particularly important given that hairy tongue, while alien, is a surprisingly common affliction with 13 per cent of adults experiencing it at least once in their lifetime.