Geographic tongue is characterized by irregular patches on the surface of the tongue. This gives it a map-like appearance.
Patches on the tongue; Tongue - patchy; Benign migratory glossitis; Glossitis - benign migratory
The exact cause of geographic tongue is unknown. It may be caused by a lack of vitamin B. It also may be due to irritation from hot or spicy foods, or alcohol. The condition appears to be less common in smokers.
The change in pattern on the surface of the tongue occurs when there is a loss of the tiny, finger-like projections, called papillae, on the tongue. These areas look flat as a result. The appearance of the tongue may change very quickly. The flat-looking areas may remain for more than a month.
No treatment is needed. Antihistamine gel or steroid mouth rinses may help ease discomfort.
Geographic tongue is a harmless condition. It may be uncomfortable and last for a long time.
Contact your provider if the symptoms last longer than 10 days. Seek medical help right away if:
Avoid irritating your tongue with hot or spicy food or alcohol if you are prone to this condition.
Published Date: February 01, 2021
Published By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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