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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Geographic tongue


Other Names for this Disease
  • Benign migratory glossitis
  • Erythema migrans
  • Ectopic geographic tongue
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Overview

Geographic tongue is a condition that causes chronic and recurrent lesions on the tongue that resemble psoriasis of the skin. It is characterized by pink to red, slightly depressed lesions with irregular, elevated, white or yellow borders. The lesions may also occur in the mucosa of the mouth and labia; this condition is called "areata migrans" because these lesions typically disappear from one area and show up in another.[1][2][3] The tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish-white bumps (papillae), which are actually short, fine, hair-like 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 map-like, or geographic, appearance. In most cases there are no symptoms but sometimes it is painful when inflamed.[4] The cause of this condition is unknown. Many researchers think it is linked with psoriasis, but more research is needed to better understand the connection. Also, hereditary and environmental factors may be involved.[5][4] The condition is benign and localized, generally requiring no treatment except reassurance. If painful, it may be treated with steroid gels or antihistamine mouth rinses.[12267] 
Last updated: 4/14/2016

References

  1. Cummings: Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, 3rd ed. Mosby-Year Book, Inc; 1998;
  2. Rakel: Conn's Current Therapy 2007, 59th ed.. Saunders; 2007;
  3. Gonsalves WC, Chi AC, Neville BW. Common Oral Lesions: Part I. Superficial Mucosal Lesions. American Family Physician. February 2007;
  4. Keels MA. Soft tissue lesions of the oral cavity in children. UpToDate. September, 2015; http://www.uptodate.com/contents/soft-tissue-lesions-of-the-oral-cavity-in-children.
  5. Geographic tongue. Mayo Clinic. 2013; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/geographic-tongue/basics/causes/CON-20027435.
  6. Reamy BV. Common Tongue Conditions in Primary Care. American Family Physician. March, 2010; 1;81(5):627-634. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0301/p627.html.
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Basic Information

  • DermNet NZ by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated has an information page on geographical tongue.  You can read more about the condition by visiting the link below.
    Link: http://dermnetnz.org/site-age-specific/geographic-tongue.html
  • Mayo Clinic has an information page on Geographic tongue.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Geographic tongue. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.
Other Names for this Disease
  • Benign migratory glossitis
  • Erythema migrans
  • Ectopic geographic tongue
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.