What is Geographic Tongue?

Geographic Tongue

Does your tongue look like a road map? Do you have a geographic tongue? Otherwise known as of migratory glossitis or a wandering rash, a geographic tongue may be the cause of inflammation though the exact reason is not known. Anyway, there is no need to panic as a geographic tongue is benign with no discomfort or specified treatment and is not a threat to the overall health of a person.

A normal tongue is covered and protected by a layer of small protrusions called papillae, but in cases with a geographic tongue, the projections will have raised borders with change in size and location. Around about 5% of people who have a geographic tongue may suffer from pain and/or sensitivity after eating acidic or spicy foods or drinks. In some cases, the tongue gets badly swollen which prevents swallowing, speaking and/or eating. It is important to see a dentist if the lesions are still present after 10 days.

Symptoms Related to a Geographic Tongue

Some of the factors that cause a geographic tongue are psychological in nature, allergies, hormonal disturbances, stress and diabetes. The geographic tongue is not known to be linked to these factors and its real cause is not known though it may be linked to a skin disease called psoriasis. Known to be a harmless condition, the geographic tongue has other names such as erythema migrans and benign migratory glossitis.

A dentist or a healthcare provider will examine the symptoms of a geographic tongue and diagnose the condition and signs. A geographic tongue has smooth or irregular red patches and may last up to a year. With a light-colored or white border, the geographic tongue either changes in days or weeks or months and may just appear and disappear. This benign migratory glossitis condition may alter in color, shape and size and may occur in one area or it may appear in another portion of the tongue.

Treatment and Management of Geographic Tongue

This condition may occur at any age and affects about 1% to 3% of the people from middle-aged to older adults. With about 1 to 10 people suffering from a geographic tongue, some of them would undergo a painful or burning sensation and mild discomfort. This would be followed by sensitivity to toothpaste which has additives or whitening agents, spicy, acidic or hot foods, sweets and cigarette smoke. Covering the upper layer of the tongue, this condition is named after its map-like resemblance on the sides and upper part of the tongue.

People who have a grooved, wrinkled or fissured tongue or a Vitamin B deficiency or psoriasis may have a risk or tendency towards a geographic tongue. It is wise to see a dentist at this point and go through an examination to rule out other problems. The doctor or dentist will prescribe pain medications to relieve any discomfort, antiseptic mouth rinses and zinc supplements. The dentist or the doctor may also suggest corticosteroids which can be applied on the tongue and anti-inflammatory medication.

Occurring at any age and time, a geographic tongue affects about 1-2.5% of the population with variations in color, size and shape. Affected individuals must remember that their condition is not contagious and other people cannot be infected. With only very few relievers involved in the treatment such as application of topical anesthetics and anti-inflammatory medication, a geographic tongue is easy to treat and is not related to cancer.

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