The man’s tongue mysteriously turns black and hair grows after a stroke

A man’s tongue has mysteriously turned black with hair after suffering a stroke.

Stroke is known to have a number of potentially life-altering, long-lasting effects — but a furry tongue is a little bizarre.

The man's tongue in his 50s when he went to the doctor


The man’s tongue in his 50s when he went to the doctorPhoto credit: JAMA Dermatology

According to a report in JAMA Dermatology, the unnamed man from India suffered left side paralysis following the stroke.

It made eating difficult for the 50-something man, so doctors put him on a liquid-only diet.

After several months, he desperately sought answers from dermatologists because his tongue was coated in a black, furry substance.

The thick hair was streaked with yellow, as described by a team from the Medical Trust Hospital in Cochin, Kerala.

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They diagnosed him with a “black hairy tongue”, known medically as lingua villosa nigra.

The condition occurs when the tiny bumps on the tongue’s surface, called papillae, become clogged with bacteria.

Papillae contain taste buds and create the strawberry-like appearance on your tongue.

Papillae are usually shed like skin in a process called desquamation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. They remain about 1 mm long.

But if the tongue isn’t grazed — by eating or cleaning the tongue with a toothbrush — the small nodules can continue to grow and become unusually long.

They can reach 18mm in length, doctors said.

Bacteria and yeast then overgrow and cause discoloration leading to the appearance of hair-like structures.

The overly long papillae are thought to produce keratins, the same proteins found in hair that contribute to the well-known hair-like appearance, the authors noted.

The tongue can end up getting stained colors like black, white, and yellow.

The yellowing seen in this patient was likely the result of trapped food scattered in the “hair,” doctors said.

While not harmful, the condition is unsightly and linked to poor oral health.


It can also be caused by smoking, drinking alcohol, using cocaine, coffee, dehydration, and some medications, including antibiotics.

And it’s more commonly found in people who have trouble eating or who are on a pureed diet.

The Stroke Association says it’s important for people who have had a stroke to keep track of their oral hygiene to prevent more post-stroke complications.

For example, taking care of your mouth and teeth reduces problems for those who cannot swallow properly after a stroke.

A black hairy tongue is uncommon in people under the age of 40.

But it’s surprisingly common, affecting about 13 percent of people at some point in their lives, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine.

Man’s fluffy taste buds were easy to treat with some simple oral hygiene practices.

The doctors said: “The patient and the nurses were advised on appropriate cleaning measures and the discoloration disappeared after 20 days.”

More commonly known side effects of a stroke are swallowing, speaking and reading difficulties as well as fatigue. The man’s tongue mysteriously turns black and hair grows after a stroke

Sarah Y. Kim

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