Geographical tongue. Benign glossitis

Geographic tongue or benign migratory glossitis is a benign condition that occurs very rarely, in 2-3% of the population.

Although the area usually affected is the tongue, however other regions of the mucosa may also be affected. It occurs more often in patients with psoriasis and cleft tongue.

It got its name geographic tongue from the fact that the pattern on the surface of the tongue suggests a map of uneven areas – some raised (may be reddish and/or mucousy), others flat.

Pathogenesis and causes

At some point, (reduced) papillae loss occurs on certain areas of the tongue. It is these flat, ‘bare’ areas that are more receptive to the taste of food, burning, swelling etc.

It can sometimes be associated with:

– stress or dairy consumption;

– cracked tongue appearance

– manifestations of atopy

The cause of the appearance of geographic tongue is not certain. However, heredity and deficiencies of B-complex vitamins in the body are “suspected”.

Signs and symptoms

Geographic tongue can affect all age groups but is prevalent in adults.

Although in most cases, patients are asymptomatic, some do report sensitivity to hot or spicy foods.

When ingesting hot or spicy foods patients may experience burning or irritation of the tongue.


No therapy is required as the condition is benign and apparently asymptomatic.

Differential diagnosis is made with the following affections:

  • chemical burns,

  • oral mucosal cancer,

  • candidiasis,

  • contact stomatitis,

  • cracked tongue,

  • psoriasis plaques.


It is not a contagious disease and does not turn into cancer and can last for months or even years.

There is no known 100% effective treatment, most of the time this disease goes away by itself.


Take zinc and vitamin B supplements or foods rich in these elements, such as:

Beans, fish, red meat, whole grains, nuts, seeds, spinach, bananas, turkey meat, avocado, liver, dairy, cheeses, eggs, cereals.

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