Disease: Geographic tongue

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.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of geographic tongue may include:

  • Smooth, red, irregularly shaped patches (lesions) on the top or side of your tongue
  • Frequent changes in the location, size and shape of lesions
  • Discomfort, pain or burning sensation in some cases, most often related to eating spicy or acidic foods

Many people with geographic tongue have no symptoms.

Geographic tongue can continue for days, months or years. The problem often resolves on its own but may appear again at a later time.

When to see a doctor

Geographic tongue is a minor — although sometimes uncomfortable — condition. However, lesions on the tongue may indicate other more-serious conditions of the tongue or diseases affecting the body in general. If you have lesions on the tongue that don't resolve within 10 days, see your doctor or dentist.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Causes

The cause of geographic tongue is unknown, and there's no way to prevent the condition. There may be a link between geographic tongue and psoriasis and between geographic tongue and lichen planus. But more research is needed to better understand possible connections.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Diagnosis

Your physician or dentist can usually make a diagnosis of geographic tongue based on an examination of your tongue and your signs and symptoms.

During the exam, your physician or dentist may:

  • Use a lighted instrument to check your tongue and mouth
  • Ask you to move your tongue around in various positions
  • Gently touch (palpate) your tongue to check for tenderness or unusual changes in the tongue's texture or consistency
  • Check for signs of infection, such as fever or swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Complications

Geographic tongue is a benign condition. It doesn't pose a threat to your health, cause long-term complications or increase your risk of major health problems.

However, anxiety about the condition is fairly common because:

  • The appearance of the tongue may be embarrassing, depending on how visible the lesions are
  • It may be difficult to be reassured that there is, in fact, nothing seriously wrong

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Lifestyle and home remedies

You may reduce discomfort associated with geographic tongue by avoiding or limiting substances that commonly aggravate sensitive oral tissues, such as spicy or acidic foods or beverages, as well as alcohol and tobacco.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Risk factors

Studies of factors that may be associated with an increased risk of geographic tongue have produced mixed results. Factors that are likely associated with an increased risk include:

  • Family history. Some people with geographic tongue have a family history of the disorder, so inherited genetic factors may increase risk.
  • Fissured tongue. People with geographic tongue often have another disorder called fissured tongue, which has the appearance of deep grooves (fissures) on the surface of the tongue.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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