Geographic Tongue: Causes and Symptoms
Geographic tongue, also known as benign migratory glossitis, causes the surface of your tongue to have an irregular, patch-like appearance. This condition gets its distinct name from the fact the patches can look similar to a geographic map.
If the look of this condition alarms you, first take a deep breath. According to the Mayo Clinic, geographic tongue is benign (harmless) and doesn’t indicate infection or other serious health problems.
Your tongue is covered in small, hair-like structures called papillae that are pink-white in color. Patches of these papillae are missing in those with geographic tongue, creating the look of red “islands” with raised edges. These patches will typically heal on their own and move to a new area of your tongue, which is why the condition is known as migratory glossitis.
Symptoms of geographic tongue typically include:
- Smooth, asymmetrical, red patches (or lesions) on your tongue
- Patches often change in size, form, and position over time
- Discomfort when eating, especially when consuming spicy, hot, or acidic items
Helpful note: Many who have geographic tongue will experience no symptoms.