Geographic tongue is a medical condition, also known as benign migratory glossitis or oral erythema migrans. It is a benign condition that affects around 3% of the population, is more common in adults than in children, and with a higher incidence of symptoms in women than in men.It affects the tongue, causing discomfort with the appearance of lesions, blisters or 'bald' spots.
Symptoms of Geographic Tongue
Sufferers of geographical tongue report uncomfortable lesions on their tongue, causing a blotchy appearance and sometimes swelling to the tongue. Lesions are often characterised by a dark red colour with a white or lighter coloured border, and appear as 'bald' spots on the tongue. Some sufferers also report cracks on their tongue, and lesions that raise in bumps and/or blisters.
In medical terms, the condition is caused by problems with the papillae on the tongue. Papillae are small protrusions or bumps on the surface of the tongue. With geographic tongue, the papillae seem to be missing on the 'bald' or darker reddish coloured part of the lesion, and very prominent or overcrowded on the white border to the lesion.
What this means for sufferers is that the parts of the tongue affected react to certain foods, causing a burning or stinging feeling, and affecting the enjoyment of foods. The condition also affects the appearance of the tongue, making sufferers uncomfortable and self conscious. Usually, small patches of the tongue are affected rather than the whole tongue, and often these patches appear to resolve themselves, and then reappear on a different site.
How do you get geographic tongue?
Unfortunately, there isn't a clear cause and effect line that can be drawn with geographic tongue, and lack of research means that doctors can't be sure how or why sufferers get geographic tongue. However, most cases appear to be hereditary, with incidence of the condition running in families and it appears to be linked to certain genes. Some believe that it is connected with stress, as many sufferers report increased incidence of lesions at busy or stressful times in their lives. Eating a diet high in refined sugars has been linked to geographic tongue, and whilst not necessarily a cause, diet is certainly a contributory factor. Finally, geographic tongue has been linked to other skin related conditions including psoriasis and eczema, so the cause for some sufferers may lie with these conditions.