Pictures of Geographic Tongue

Benign migratory glossitis, also known as geographic tongue, is a harmless condition which affects the surface of the tongue. In this condition, some patches on the tongue do not have the papillae, making them appear like smooth and red "islands" with slightly elevated borders. These lesions usually heal in one patch but then more migrate to other areas of the tongue. It leads to the increase of discomfort and sensitivity to certain substances. We will look at the causes, symptoms, treatment and some geographic tongue pictures.

Causes of Geographic Tongue

When you look at geographic tongue pictures, you can make out the missing layer of papillae. It is not known why these papillae are lost in this condition. It could be due to genetics since it is seen in the families. Geographic tongue is common in people who suffer from psoriasis and fissured tongue. The ones who have fissured tongue find cracks and grooves appearing on the side and top of the tongue.

Some contributing factors for geographic tongue include allergies, hormonal disturbance, diabetes, emotional stress, psychological factors, habits etc. But there is no conclusive evidence of these factors.

Symptoms of Geographic Tongue

1. The top and side of the tongue will have smooth, red lesions which are irregularly shaped.

2. The lesions change shape, size and location frequently.

3. There can be pain, burning sensation and discomfort while eating spicy, salty, hot and acidic foods.

Some people may remain asymptomatic for years. The condition may remain for months or years, sometimes resolving on its own and reappearing again as well.

When to See a Doctor

Geographic tongue is usually a minor condition. However, since the lesions can be indicative of other serious and underlying diseases affecting the body, they should be checked by the doctor. If they have been persisting for more than 10 days, get a doctor to see them.

Geographic Tongue Pictures

Geographic tongue can affect a person in any age group and it appears among 1 – 3 % of the population. It is more common in middle aged or older adults, especially women as compared to men.

As you can see from the geographic tongue pictures below, it can occur in various shapes, sizes and colors. The appearance gets its characterized shape due to the loss of the papillae which are finger-like and mushroom shaped projections.


Two conditions occur together frequently – geographic tongue and fissured tongue. Fissured tongue is usually a painless condition in which deep grooves appear in the dorsum of the tongue. Both conditions are not contagious conditions and do not pass on to anyone else.

Remedies for Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue usually gets better on its own and there is no acknowledged cure for it. If, however, there are some other conditions linked to it, treating that condition will improve the look of the tongue.

1. Zinc Supplements

Some zinc supplements have been known to be helpful in this condition. Some doctors believe that people who suffer from geographic tongue have zinc deficiency. Taking supplements may help them by boosting their immunity.

2. Herbal Teas

Some herbal tea preparations have also helped in dealing with geographic tongue. You can try herbs like slippery elm, aloe vera, goldenseal, licorice, chamomile and peppermint. To prepare the tea, boil one teaspoon of the herb for every cup of water and have it twice daily. Twenty to thirty drops of Echinacea herbal tea can help in giving pain relief experienced in this condition.

3. Lifestyle Changes

People suffering from geographic tongue should modify their diet and exclude foods that are hot and spicy. They should avoid fruits which can cause irritation. Avoid the use of tobacco. Tooth pastes with additives, strong flavoring and whitening agents are not recommended. Go for toothpastes made for sensitive teeth.

4. Medications

You can use a mouth wash that contains antiseptic and anesthetic agents to relieve any discomfort caused by geographic tongue. Tooth pastes which contain topical corticosteroids like triamcinolone can be applied on the tongue several times a day.

Doctors can prescribe OTC pain killers, mouth rinse with anti-histamines and anesthetics to relieve any discomfort. 

 
 
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