The geographic tongue is a condition where your tongue has a map-like appearance.
There are red patches with white borders instead of papillae.
The papillae are pink white bumps on the tongue which do not exist in this condition.
Rather the smooth red patches take over.
This condition is also known as benign migratory glossitis.
As the name suggests, this condition is harmless and does not cause any oral health problems.
However, your tongue will feel sensitive towards spicy and salty food.
If you have been feeling this sensitivity, this article is for you.
Keep reading what causes your tongue to have a map-like pattern and how you can treat it.
How to Recognize it?
There are about 3 percent of people in the world suffer from this condition.
The main geographic tongue symptoms are the appearance of red patches.
The shape of these patches as well as the white border surrounding them makes it look like a map.
That’s where it gets its name from.
The red lesions are smooth and present on the top surface of the tongue.
They can also be found on the sides and can disappear from one place and form on another.
Hence, their size, shapes and locations change.
This is how these irregular patches will look like.
They will also make you feel an uncomfortable sensation.
You will have increased sensitivity to spicy, salty, sweet and acidic foods.
Hence, you can feel pain, discomfort and a burning sensation whenever you eat anything.
However, most people with this condition may not have any symptoms.
It can be an ongoing condition or it may resolve by itself.
It can still reappear after a while lasting as long as days, months or years.
While this condition is generally harmless, it can still be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
However, visit your doctor when you see these patches as they can also indicate another serious health problem.
Since benign migratory glossitis resolves on its own, it is best to consult a doctor when they persist beyond 10 days.
You may not need treatment if it does not persist that long.
However, the stinging sensation can become uncomfortable as it is in a burning mouth syndrome.
Hence, even if this condition is not alarming, you should identify its cause, diagnose it and get treatment.
Geographic Tongue Causes
The exact cause of the condition is unknown.
However, there is a link between other conditions that can result in benign migratory glossitis.
The patches on the tongue can appear with these conditions.
Psoriasis results in patches across the body, hence they can also appear on the tongue.
Oral lichen planus forms lacy red patches inside the mouth that give a burning sensation.
In a scrotal tongue, there are fissures and grooves on the top surface of the tongue.
It can occur with a benign migratory glossitis.
Hence, if you have any of these conditions, then the map-like patches form together.
A fissured tongue increases the risk of the formation of these lesions too.
Having this condition run in the family also increases your risks of getting it.
Genetics can make you more susceptible.
So, if any of your parents or siblings has it then it probably runs in the family and you can get it too.
This condition is essentially begin.
Thus, it does not pose any oral health problems or leads to complications.
That said, the condition can be uncomfortable and cause anxiety because of its appearance.
You can become conscious of how it looks if the patches are quite visible.
Moreover, due to their appearance, you may think that this is a serious problem when in fact, it is not.
This condition is more common in young adults but there is no known cause of that yet.
Though, it can happen to children, seniors and even babies.
So it does not happen to a specific age group but is more common in one.
If you suffer from reactive arthritis, fissured tongue, oral lichen planus or psoriasis then it may occur with that.
See a doctor for diagnosis.
Diagnosing The Condition
Your dentist or doctor can immediately find out if you have the condition by examining your tongue.
Tell them about your signs and symptoms so that they can detect benign migratory glossitis.
Moreover, they will check your mouth and tongue and ask you to move around your tongue to look for patches on different sides.
These patches and lesions can appear because of an underlying disease or infection.
Hence, they will also look for signs such as swollen lymph nodes and fever to see if there is an infection.
Furthermore, they will check if there is any tenderness on your tongue.
Hence, they will look for changes in the tongue’s texture because of the presence of the patches.
Your doctor can ask about your diet and medications.
This condition can result from taking birth control pills in women.
They cause hormonal surges which can form the patches on the tongue.
Also, a deficiency of vital vitamins and minerals such as iron, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, zin and folic acid can give your tongue a map-like appearance.
After checking your diet and deficiencies they will look into your existing health and medical conditions.
If you suffer from Type 1 diabetes then you have a higher risk of developing this condition.
Moreover, taking emotional stress does seem to have a correlation with the patches.
So does the presence of allergies.
If suffer from allergies such as hay fever and eczema then you are more likely to have these lesions.
Therefore, your doctor will check your medical history and ask about allergies.
This will help them to identify the cause to prescribe any suitable treatment.
While the patches go away on their own and you do not need a specific treatment, you may still require medications to control the underlying condition.
Geographic Tongue Treatment
You can feel slight pain, stinging and uncomfortable sensations if you suffer from benign migratory glossitis.
However, these lesions can go on their own.
It can take days, weeks or months, even years but no treatment is required to specifically address them.
Unless an underlying condition or infection causes it.
If that’s the case, then your doctor will give you medicines for the infection to treat it.
They will prescribe Vitamin B supplements to compensate for any vitamin deficiency.
Similarly, they can give iron, folic acid and zinc tablets to address their deficiency.
In order to lessen your discomfort, they can prescribe you pain relievers available over-the-counter.
Furthermore, mouthwashes containing antihistamines can heal allergic reactions that may cause the condition.
Mouthwashes that contain anesthetics can also help to numb the pain and decrease the discomfort.
They can prescribe you corticosteroid topical ointments to apply to your tongue.
Or use corticosteroid rinses to cleanse the lesions.
Applying topical analgesics can relieve you of pain when you directly apply them.
Similarly, NSAIDs can relieve your symptoms too.
The condition appears and leaves on its own.
Hence, it is not exactly certain if the treatments are working or not.
Though, there can be some side effects from the treatment, especially after taking NSAIDs.
This happens when you have been taking them for a long time.
You can frequently have high blood pressure and lightheadedness.
Getting headaches, stomach pain and heartburn are also common.
Moreover, it can result in stomach ulcers.
Therefore when this condition happens, it is better to try other treatments first as it can last for months or years.
If there is no pain, burning sensation or discomfort then you can live with it.
It is a harmless, benign condition that is not contagious.
Hence, it won’t afflict your health greatly.
Implementing Lifestyle Changes with a Geographic Tongue
Refrain from using spicy, acidic and salty foods that can aggravate your condition.
If you constantly feel a strong burning sensation then it is best to avoid these foods as they can exacerbate or trigger your pain.
Do not drink hot beverages either.
Furthermore, avoid smoking and chewing tobacco as it can increase your irritation and stinging sensation.
These symptoms are manageable by avoiding foods that trigger them and taking medicines that can relieve the pain.
Usually, symptoms are only mild or not at all.
Though, even if you have recurring pain, it is manageable.
There is no specific treatment but taking pain relievers helps.
Though, do not try to treat your condition yourself.
Seek medical advice first as it could be something other than a geographic tongue.
A swollen and sore tongue can point towards other oral and physical health problems.
Hence, do not diagnose the problem yourself rather visit your doctor.
Once they identify the condition and prescribe you treatment, only take that.
The sensations and pain can disappear on their own.
The geographic tongue may even last a few days and never recur.
However, if it is due to deficiencies then it may recur when you have them again.
Hence, it is important to know the cause.
Once, you are aware of that, you can manage your symptoms by abstaining from triggers and getting relief through topical and oral medications.