Geographic Tongue Info


In the first part of the discussion of harmless conditions of the tongue and mouth, we looked at Aphthous Ulcer Mouth. We continue the health education by giving geographic tongue info.

But before we go in-depth into the discussion on geographic tongue, we reiterate that treatment of these mouth conditions is supportive and conservative. With geographic tongue, it may be difficult to exclude the glossitis caused by deficiency of B Vitamins. Therefore supplementation with B Vitamins may be warranted.

Links to no-prescription (over-the-counter) medications are therefore provided next.

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The technical name for this condition is “Benign Migratory Glossitis”. Glossitis is inflammation of the tongue. Migratory describes the behaviour of the lesions. Lastly, benign signifies the harmless nature of the condition.

Geographic tongue is a condition where the tongue develops red, smooth patches that appear like map drawings. These patches can be on the top surface, the sides, or undersurface of the tongue. They are, unlike aphthous ulcers, pretty painless. There may be a slight discomfort only.

Geographic tongue also lasts days to weeks. Then patches disappear, only to reappear a few weeks later. The cycle can repeat itself for months, years, to a lifetime.

A Medical Diagnosis is necessary, following which the patient can be reassured. An important condition to be excluded is glossitis due to deficiencies of B vitamins, whose lesions do not migrate.

Treatment is supportive, aimed at relieving discomfort or pain. Anaesthetic gels (link above) and pastes are used locally. Painkillers by mouth may be used if needed (which is rare).


Geographic tongue


Geographic tongue (and oral aphthous ulcers) can be managed without resorting to expensive and invasive investigations. (There would be no harm in determining the Blood Sugar Level if that has not been done recently.)

I feel that stress has a strong association with both of these conditions. And so, worrying about them only causes a vicious cycle of stress, lesions, more stress, more or recurrent lesions!

It is important that once a diagnosis of geographic tongue has been made by a professional and reassurance offered, the patient should try to forget about the condition. And they better stop looking at it in the mirror! Life must continue normally, and usually this causes the lesions to disappear in a sustained manner or permanently.


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2 Replies to “Geographic Tongue Info”

  1. I was not really aware of this condition, and it is very striking.

    What is surprising is how stress continues to be such a strong factor in the appearance of these diseases. It is clear that stress causes a drop in the entire immune system, right?

    The other thing that also continues to surprise me is how vitamins are always there to help us fight diseases. And many times to prevent them!

    Question: Within what age range is this disease most likely to appear? The food we eat can influence the appearance of this condition?

    Thanks for the input

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thanks very much for reading through the article and providing valuable input. And thank you for the questions too.

      Stress is indeed very destructive to our immune systems. This is because embryologicaly, our immune systems and nervous systems develop from the same group of cells in the early stages of pregnancy. So these two systems remain connected throughout. When stress distabilises the nervous system, it does so to the immune system too!

      Yes indeed, vitamins are wonderful and we should pay more attention to their intake daily.

      You get taught about geographic tongue in Paediatrics (kids), Adult Medicine, Gynaecology (women); every age group. But it affects young adults most frequently. And shame, how it freaks them out! 😥

      Foods that can cause or worsen geographic tongue are mostly those at the extremes: very salty, very sweet, very hot, sour / acidic (e.g. pineapple, lemon).

      Warmest regards Jas.

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