Versione Italiana

GEOGRAPHIC TONGUE

 

Luciano Schiazza M.D.
Dermatologist
cell 335.655.97.70
www.lucianoschiazza.it

Lingua geografica

Geographic tongue (also known as benign migratory glossitis, glossitis areata exfoliativa, glossitis areata migrans, lingua geographica, stomatitis areata migrans, transitory benign plaques of the tongue, or erythema migrans) is an inflammatory, harmless condition of the surface ot the tongue that affects about 2% of the population. It may occur in any race, age or sex. However, it appears more commonly in females than males and more frequently in adults.

The tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish-white, small protrusions called papillae.  With geographic tongue, patches on and around the sides of the tongue are missing papillae and appear as irregularly shaped, smooth, red “islands” often with a slightly white, yellow-white, graysh-white, raised borders. These patches give the tongue a map-like or geographic appearance.

Although geographic tongue may look alarming, it doesn't cause health problems.

The red patches may disappear and reappear, often heal in one area and then migrate to a different part of the tongue, changing in size and shape in a short period of time (hourly to dayly). They may persist days to weeks to months and clear up, usually waxing and waning in severity. It has an unpredictable course. The tongue can sometimes cause discomfort (burning or stinging sensation) for increased sensitivity (feels like, as it has been scalded) to certain substances (hot, spicy, salty or acidic foods- tomato, eggplant, chard and spinach, walnuts, pecans, sharp cheeses, sour foods, mint, candy and citrus-). The discomfort may come and go over time.

Chemicals, such as mouth washes and teeth whiteners, can also aggravate the condition. The condition may worsen at certain times of a women's menstrual cycle or during pregnancy.

It is not caused by an infection so people affected by geographic tongue  don't have to be worried about passing this on to anyone else.

It is often noticed coexistence of another disorder called fissured tongue, characterized by the appearance of deep fissures, or grooves, on the surface of the tongue.
The cause of geographic tongue is unknown but some factors have been linked with the condition:

Geographic tongue has never been demonstrated to undergo trasformation to cancer. Of course, if any oral sore develops which doesn’t behave like geographic tongue, it would be to have evaluated by health care practitioner.

About treatment, geographic tongue is a benign condition that usually resolves itself without causing any problems for the patient so most people do not require treatment, because the consition is usually asymptomatic and insignificant. The patient should be reassured that there is, in fact, nothing seriously wrong.

There is no known cure. If there are associated medical conditions, treatment of these may improve the appearance of the tongue.

Geographic tongue can sometimes cause tongue discomfort: it may be treated with a mouth gargle or rinse containing antiseptic and anaesthetic agents. Topical corticosteroids may have to be prescribed to control the discomfort for those few patients who are very bothered by the problem.

It is important for reducing discomfort to avoid or limit subastnces that commonly aggravate sensitive oral tissues, including: