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Geographic Tongue: Signs, Symptoms, and Solutions

Author: Victoria Peters

What is Geographic Tongue?

The tongue is normally covered in tiny, pink bumps called papillae (Geographic tongue, 2012). However, with the condition Geographic Tongue, patches of the tongue are missing papillae, causing the illusion of red islands (Stuart, Geographic tongue: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment). The condition is called Geographic Tongue because the patches, which are actually lesions, give the tongue a map-like appearance (Geographic tongue, 2012). These lesions can also be found on your gums, cheeks, roof of your mouth, or under your tongue (Geographic tongue, 2018). An annoying characteristic of this condition is that as one lesion heals, another will form on a different part of the tongue (Geographic tongue, 2018). Geographic Tongue does not cause health problems and is not associated with cancer or infection (Geographic tongue, 2012).

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of Geographic Tongue can include pain and increased sensitivity to spices, salts, or sweets (Stuart, n.d.). It is generally recommended to avoid eating spicy or acidic foods if you suffer from this condition. However, many people with Geographic Tongue have no symptoms at all. This condition has been known to last for days, months or even years (Geographic tongue, 2012). Thankfully, this condition often resolves on its own, but may reappear from time to time. In general, it is recommended to see your doctor or dentist if the lesions do not resolve within 10 days (Geographic tongue, 2012).

What Causes Geographic Tongue?

The cause of geographic tongue has not been uncovered, and there is no known way to prevent the condition, but there is believed to be a connection between Geographic Tongue and psoriasis and Fissured Tongue (Stuart, n.d.).

How Can it be Managed?

Geographic Tongue only affects 1-3% of the population, is more likely in young adults, and is more common in women than men (Geographic tongue, 2018). Although Geographic Tongue generally does not require medical treatment,there are several options that can be employed to reduce any discomfort (Mayo Clinic, 2018). These include options such as Pain reliever medications, mouthwashes with anesthetic agents, antihistamines, and vitamin B supplements.


[1] The American Academy of Oral Medicine. (2012). Geographic tongue. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. Retrieved December 2021, from

[2] Stuart, A. (n.d.). Geographic tongue: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. WebMD. Retrieved December 2021, from

[3] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, March 6). Geographic tongue. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 2021, from

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