Geographic tongue

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Geographic tongue results to island-shaped lesions that provides the tongue with a map-like appearance. These lesions might form on the upper surface and sides of the tongue. It might appear ragged and uneven and oftentimes have whitish borders or edges.

It is important to note that the lesions are relatively harmless. It is not a sign of an infection, cancer or serious health issue. The misshapen spots are a sign of inflammation that affects the surface of the tongue.


Geographic tongue will not always trigger any symptoms. Some do not perceive any change in the appearance and only given a diagnosis after assessment by the doctor.

Those who have symptoms might initially see signs on the tongue that are distinct which makes it easy to decide on a diagnosis.

The signs of geographic tongue include the following:

Geographic tongue
Irregular, island-shaped reddened lesions that are smooth and might be sensitive.
  • Irregular, island-shaped reddened lesions that are smooth and might be sensitive
  • White or light-colored edges that are slightly elevated around the borders of the lesions
  • Lesions or patches of varying shapes and sizes
  • Lesion or patches that migrate or move from one site of the tongue to another in days or weeks
  • Patches that comes and go rapidly
  • Sensitivity to substances such as toothpaste, cigarette smoke, mouthwashes, sweets as well as hot, sugar or highly acidic foods
  • Minor discomfort or burning sensation on the tongue or in the mouth

The signs might last up to a year but might recur at another time. In some cases, a fissure might also form in the tongue.

What are the usual causes?

Even today, the precise cause of geographic tongue is unknown, but some are likely to develop the condition.

Some of the possible causes include:

  • Psoriasis – this skin condition results to the buildup of skin cells on the skin surface. Those with this skin condition are likely to end up with geographic tongue.
  • Lichen planus – this inflammatory condition triggers the formation of bumps and lesions on the surface of the skin or within the mouth.
  • Vitamin B deficiency – lack of vitamin B can result to swelling, inflammation and other signs on the tongue
  • Pregnancy – due to the hormonal changes during this period and the taking up of nutrients by the growing fetus, it results to deficiencies in vitamins.

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