Your Health A-Z

Geographic tongue

Geographic tongue is a form of glossitis (inflammation of the tongue). Geographic tongue is diagnosed if there are smooth areas on the tongue, which are not painful.

Description

Geographical tongue is a form of glossitis – called benign migratory glossitis.

Cause

Glossitis can indicate other problems, which may be local, such as poorly-fitting dentures, irritants such as alcohol, tobacco and spicy foods. It can also be a sign of diseases such as vitamin deficiencies or anaemia. Geographic tongue is not associated with any of the above.

Geographic tongue is characterized by smooth areas (absence of normal taste buds) on the tongue with a slightly elevated whitish border. The shape of lesions is variable (= geographic).

Lesions change shape over a period of days. These lesions do not cause symptoms.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for geographic tongue.

When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor if you have any abnormality of the tongue, particularly if the appearance is strange or it is painful.

Reviewed by Prof H.F. Jordaan

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.