Vaping has made national headlines recently due to an onslaught of illnesses across the U.S. Some cases, sadly, have proven fatal. If you like to vape in the Midlands, you should know about one side effect called “vape tongue.”
Vaping Illnesses are on the Rise
Vaping, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the act of inhaling the vapor created by an electronic cigarette or similar device. News reports have been covering the disturbing trend of vaping illnesses for months now. Marked by symptoms that include chronic cough, breathing difficulty and nausea, a distressingly high number of individuals across the country have fallen ill. As of November 5, there have been 39 confirmed deaths attributed to vaping.
Vape tongue isn’t nearly as serious as the vaping illnesses making headlines, but it’s still a troubling side effect of what is increasingly looking like a really bad-for-you habit. It refers to a condition in which vape juice desensitizes the tongue so you are unable to taste flavors, according to Thomas Ylioja, a tobacco-cessation expert at Denver’s National Jewish Health. Though the condition has not been studied and doctors are unclear of the exact cause, they do know that since it occurs in people who vape both nicotine and THC, neither of those substances is to blame. It’s most likely the solvents that are used in various vape juices to deliver the nicotine or THC particles in an aerosol form so they can be inhaled, such as propylene glycol, ethylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Frequent consumption of these ingredients produces a coating on the tongue that blocks flavorings from reaching the taste buds. These chemicals also cause inflammation of the nasal cavity, which interferes with smell—another key component in enabling us to taste. Vape tongue not only prevents users from enjoying the flavors of their vape; it also interferes with the taste of food and drink.
Fortunately, vape tongue usually resolves on its own—as long as you quit vaping. After a couple of weeks, your tongue should regain the ability to taste. However, without research on the long-term effects of vape tongue, there is the possibility that it could affect a patient’s oral health. Studies have shown that vaping can lead to certain oral health problems, including lung inflammation and gastrointestinal problems. A study published in the November 2016 medical journal Oncotarget found that oral tissue becomes inflamed after just a few minutes of ingesting tobacco- and menthol-flavored vapes, increasing the risk of oral diseases such as gum disease or oral cancer. Another study found that vaping may lead to molecular changes in oral tissue, which also leads to a higher risk of cancer.
Much research on the long-term health consequences of vaping still needs to be done, but it’s becoming clear that the risks outweigh any potential benefits. For more information on vaping diseases or strategies for quitting, contact an ENT provider at CENTA Medical Group, PA.