What is it?

Geographic tongue refers to a condition in which the tongue surface looks like a map. People who have this condition have a tongue surface which is smooth with reddish patches surrounded by white borders. The red areas are missing papillae, which are the small bumps that appear normally on the tongue’s surface and contain the taste buds. Geographic tongue is benign, not contagious and most people have no symptoms. It can happen at any age, but is more common in young adults, people who have psoriasis or reactive arthritis. It may be linked to hormonal surges, vitamin deficiencies (zinc, B6, B12 and folic acid), diabetes, allergies and stress.

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Signs & symptoms

Many people do not notice any symptoms of geographic tongue. Symptoms may include red spoty, absence of papillae, burning sensation, and patches in other areas of the mouth.


Geographic tongue is diagnosed with a physical exam and medical history.


Treatment is usually not necessary. If there is a burning sensation, mouthwash with antihistamine, topical analgesics or NSAIDs may relieve the pain.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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