Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is a Geographic Tongue?
Geographic tongue is a disorder that affects the tongue’s surface. Tongues are normally covered with pinkish-white, tiny bumps known as papillae. With those individuals with geographic tongue there are areas of the tongue surface that are missing papillae and instead appear as red, smooth patches sometime with borders that are slightly raised.
These areas or lesions often make the tongue look like a map, or geographic appearance. These lesions usually get better in one place then migrate or move to another place on the tongue. It is known also as “benign migratory glossitis”.
Geographic tongue usually looks worse than it really is as this condition is really harmless. It is not a problem of health and is not linked with any cancer or infection. It can cause some uneasiness or soreness of the tongue as well as sensitivity to some materials.
Geographic Tongue Symptoms
Symptoms and signs of this condition might include:
- Red, irregularly shaped, smooth patches or lesions on the side or top of the tongue.
- Numerous location changes as well as changes in shape and size of the lesions – daily to even hourly. This is why these spots are known also as “wandering rashes of the tongue”.
- Pain, discomfort or sensation of burning in certain cases, usually related to eating salty, spicy, hot or foods with lots of acid
This condition of the tongue can continue for years or only months but it will resolve eventually by itself but can develop again at a later date.
Although geographic tongue is only a problem that is very minor it can be very uncomfortable. Lesions on the tongue can be an indication of some other conditions of the tongue that are more serious or diseases that affect the entire body generally. So, if an individual has these lesions and they do not go away in 7 to 10 days, see your dentist or primary care physician.
Geographic Tongue Causes
Geographic tongue develops in approximately 2% of the population and may occur in any age, sex, or race. But, it does appear more in females than males and most frequently in adults.
What causes these lesions is unknown but there are factors that have been associated with this condition. These factors include: occurs commonly in individuals with psoriasis – in particular “pustular psoriasis”; associated with anemia, diabetes, atopy (eczema and/or asthma) as well as stress; a trigger could be certain foods – such as cheese; clustering inside families gives the suggestion of some involvement genetically; and variations with the menstrual cycle gives the suggestion of hormonal factors as a cause.
A specific cause of this tongue problem has not been found but there are some physicians and scientist who believe that a deficiency of vitamin B could be involved. Or the tongue just might be irritated by certain substances. This problem does appear to be seen less in those who smoke.
Geographic Tongue Treatment
This is a benign problem that will eventually get better on its own. There is no acknowledged cure. If there is some link with some other medical condition, treatment of the condition will improve the look of the tongue.
Any discomfort can possibly be helped with a mouth rinse that contains antiseptic and anesthetic properties. Topical corticosteroids might also help with use such as triamcinolone that is in dental paste can be applied several times each day as needed.
Your primary care physician could prescribe drugs to manage the sensitivity or discomfort such as: over-the-counter pain relievers; antihistamine mouth rinses; mouth rinses with anesthetic; or corticosteroid ointments or rinses. These treatments have not been researched so any benefit is uncertain.
There has been some help with zinc supplements. It is believed by some medical professionals that those with this condition have a zinc deficiency and by increasing the intake of zinc it can boost the immune system.
Herbal teas have also helped. Herbs such as slipper elm herb, aloe vera, the goldenseal, peppermint, licorice and chamomile may be used to lessen the problem of having gastric acid excesses in the stomach. These herbal teas may be prepared by the addition of a teaspoon of the herb used for every boiling cup of water. This herbal tea may be used twice every day.
For relief of tongue pain, individuals with this disorder may take about 20 to 30 drops of Echinacea herbal tea 3 times each day as long as it is needed.
Geographic Tongue Pictures
Collection of Pictures of the medical condition Geographic Tongue…
Geographic Tongue Photos
Geographic Tongue in Children
Image Source: doctorspiller.com