Overview

Geographic tongue is an inflammatory but harmless condition affecting the surface of your tongue. The tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish-white bumps (papillae), which are actually short, fine, hairlike projections. With geographic tongue, patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae and appear as smooth, red "islands," often with slightly raised borders.

These patches (lesions) give the tongue a maplike, or geographic, appearance. The lesions often heal in one area and then move (migrate) to a different part of your tongue. Geographic tongue is also known as benign migratory glossitis.

Although geographic tongue may look alarming, it doesn't cause health problems and isn't associated with infection or cancer. Geographic tongue can sometimes cause tongue discomfort and increased sensitivity to certain substances, such as spices, salt and even sweets.

May 12, 2017
References
  1. Usatine RP, et al. Geographic tongue. In: The Color Atlas of Family Medicine, 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=678. Accessed Jan. 27, 2017.
  2. Mangold AR, et al. Diseases of the tongue. Clinics in Dermatology. 2016;34:458.
  3. AskMayoExpert. Geographic tongue. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  4. Goldstein BG, et al. Oral lesions. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 26, 2017.
  5. Geographic tongue. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. http://www.aaom.com/. Accessed Jan. 27, 2017.
  6. Picciani BL, et al. Geographic tongue and psoriasis: Clinical, histopathological, immunohistochemical and genetic correlation — A literature review. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2016;4:410.
  7. Salinas TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 28, 2017.