Geographic tongue


Geographic tongue is a benign condition that causes an inflammatory but unharmful change to the tongue’s surface. The tongue normally comprises of small papillae, which are short, delicate projections that resemble hairs and are pinkishwhite in color. Geographic tongue is a condition in which some areas of the tongue lack of papillae, resulting in smooth, red islandswith marginally elevated borders

Geographic tongue is a benign and nonpainful condition, lacking any serious implications. The lesions, or patches, give the tongue a maplike or geographical appearance. These lesions frequently move (migrate) to different regions of the tongue after healing in one location. The condition is also referred to as benign migratory glossitis

Given that certain individuals with geographic tongue might not manifest noticeable symptoms and thus may not actively pursue medical intervention, it is plausible that the true prevalence of this condition could surpass existing estimates.

Although the visual aspect of geographic tongue might raise concerns, it does not give rise to any medical issues and is not associated with infections or cancer. Nevertheless, in certain instances, geographic tongue can result in tongue discomfort and increased sensitivity to specific substances such as spices, salt, and sugary foods.


People with geographic tongue might not show any signs or symptoms. The condition can persist for varying durations, ranging from days to months or even years. In many cases, geographic tongue may resolve on its own, but there is a possibility of it reoccurring at a later time

Geographic signs and symptoms may include:

  • On the top or sides of the tongue, there are smooth, red, irregularly shaped patches (lesions).
  • Regular changes to the lesions’ position, dimension, and shape.
  • Pain, discomfort, or in some cases a burning feeling that is frequently brought on by eating spicy or acidic meals.

Geographic tongue is typically a mild condition, although it can occasionally pose challenges. The tongue lesions could potentially indicate more serious tongue problems or underlying health issues. Seeking a second opinion from a healthcare provider or dentist, as well as pursuing appropriate treatment, is essential if the tongue lesions persist beyond a 10day period


The exact cause of geographic tongue remains uncertain, and there are currently no established preventive measures. A potential association could exist between geographic tongue and both psoriasis and lichen planus. Further research is needed to delve into these potential associations

Other specific diseases such as eczema, type 1 diabetes, and reactive arthritis are more prone to develop geographic tongue. 

Risk factors

Research findings on factors that might elevate the likelihood of geographic tongue have yielded contradictory outcomes. Among the following factors, some are likely associated with an increased risk:

  • Family history: Geographic tongue can run in families, which raises the possibility that hereditary factors may contribute to the condition’s increased chance of development.
  • Fissured tongue: Fissured tongue, which is defined by the presence of deep grooves (fissures) on the surface of the tongue, is another condition that many people with geographic tongue frequently have.