What is the definition of Geographic Tongue?

Geographic tongue is characterized by irregular patches on the surface of the tongue. This gives it a map-like appearance.

What are the alternative names for Geographic Tongue?

Patches on the tongue; Tongue - patchy; Benign migratory glossitis; Glossitis - benign migratory

What are the causes for Geographic Tongue?

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.

What are the symptoms for Geographic Tongue?

Symptoms include:

  • Map-like appearance to the surface of the tongue
  • Patches that move from day to day
  • Smooth, red patches and sores (lesions) on the tongue
  • Soreness and burning pain (in some cases)

What are the current treatments for Geographic Tongue?

No treatment is needed. Antihistamine gel or steroid mouth rinses may help ease discomfort.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Geographic Tongue?

Geographic tongue is a harmless condition. It may be uncomfortable and last for a long time.

When should I contact a medical professional for Geographic Tongue?

Contact your provider if the symptoms last longer than 10 days. Seek medical help right away if:

  • You have breathing problems.
  • Your tongue is severely swollen.
  • You have problems speaking, chewing, or swallowing.

How do I prevent Geographic Tongue?

Avoid irritating your tongue with hot or spicy food or alcohol if you are prone to this condition.



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James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Disorders of the mucous membranes. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 34.

Pham KL, Mirowski GW. Oral diseases and oral manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 24.

  • Journal: Journal of oral & facial pain and headache
  • Published —
Taste and Pain Response in Burning Mouth Syndrome With and Without Geographic Tongue.
  • Condition: Geographic Tongue
  • Journal: The journal of contemporary dental practice
  • Treatment Used: Photobiomodulation of Low-level Laser Therapy
  • Number of Patients: 50
  • Published —
In this study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of using photobiomodulation of low-level laser therapy for the management of symptomatic geographic tongue.