Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue is a harmless, inflammatory condition affecting the surface of the tongue. The tongue is usually covered with small, pinkish white papillae (bumps). However, in this condition, the papillae are missing giving a patch like or a map like appearance. It is smooth with slightly elevated borders.

These patches usually heal at one part and migrate to other part of the tongue. This condition is also called benign migratory glossitis.

Causes of Geographic Tongue

The specific cause of geographic tongue is not known. The patches (lesions) on the tongue occur due to activity of certain forms of white blood cells which usually induce inflammation at the injury site. The correct reason for this lapse is not understood so far.

However, some factors are associated with high risk of causing geographic tongue. The risk factors include:

Inheritance – Genetics is also a major factor for raising the risk of geographic tongue. People with a family history of this condition are likely to get the condition.

Fissures on the tongue – This is another disorder in which deep fissures or grooves appear on the surface of the tongue. This is also a risk factor for geographic tongue.

Other risk factors of geographic tongue –

There are some more possible factors that increase the risk of this condition. They include:

  • Diabetes
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Stress or psychological disorders
  • Allergies and other forms of hypersensitivities
  • Skin ailments

Symptoms of Geographic Tongue

The signs and symptoms of geographic tongue include:

  • Red, smooth and irregularly shaped lesions (patches) on the side or top of the tongue
  • Frequent change in the size, shape and location of the lesions
  • Pain, discomfort and burning sensation on the tongue while eating something salty, hot, spicy or acidic

Geographic tongue persists for months to years. This condition resolves on its own, and can reappear later.

Treatment for Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue does not require any treatment. Rather than the discomfort, it is otherwise a harmless tongue condition.

Your physician may prescribe certain medications to help relieve sensitivity or discomfort:

  • Antihistamine mouth rinses
  • Mouth rinses with sleep inducing properties
  • Over the counter pain relievers
  • Corticosteroid rinses or ointments

Care of Geographic Tongue

There is no prevention for geographic tongue condition. The pain or the discomfort raised by this condition can be reduced by limiting or avoiding the factors that aggravate the oral tissues. These factors include salty, spicy, hot or acidic foods, tobacco, alcohol and toothpastes which contain concentrated whitening, flavoring agents and tartar control additives.