Geographic Language Open the pop-up dialog box
Geographic tongue is an inflammatory but harmless condition that affects the surface of your tongue. The tongue is usually covered in tiny pinkish-white bumps (papillae) that are actually short, thin, hair-like protrusions. In the geographic tongue, the plaques on the surface of the tongue are free of papillae and appear as smooth, red “islands”, often with slightly raised edges.
These plaques (lesions) give the tongue a map-like or geographic appearance. The lesions often heal in one area and then move (wander) to another part of your tongue. The geographic tongue is also known as benign migration glossitis.
While the geographic language sounds alarming, it does not cause any health problems and is not linked to infections or cancer. The geographic tongue can sometimes lead to tongue discomfort and an increased sensitivity to certain substances such as spices, salt and even sweets.
Geographic language signs and symptoms can include:
Smooth, red, irregularly shaped spots (lesions) on the top or side of your tongue
Frequent changes in the position, size and shape of lesions
Discomfort, pain or burning in some cases, mostly related to the consumption of spicy or acidic foods
The cause of the geographic language is unknown and there is no way to prevent the disease. There may be a link between the geographic tongue and psoriasis, and between the geographic tongue and lichen planus. However, more research is needed to better understand the possible relationships.
Studies of factors that may be associated with an increased risk for the geographic language have produced mixed results. Factors that may be associated with an increased risk include:
Family history. Some people with geographic language have a family history of the condition, so hereditary genetic factors may increase the risk.
Tongue cracked. People with geographic tongue often have another disorder called jagged tongue, which is what deep grooves (cracks) look like on the surface of the tongue.