BACK TOTOP Browse A-ZSearchBrowse A-ZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0-9 E-mail FormEmail ResultsName:Email address:Recipients Name:Recipients address:Message: Print-FriendlyBookmarksbookmarks-menuGeographic tonguePatches on the tongue; Tongue - patchy; Benign migratory glossitis; Glossitis - benign migratoryGeographic tongue is characterized by irregular patches on the surface of the tongue. This gives it a map-like appearance. Causes The exact cause of geographic tongue is unknown. It may be caused by a lack of vitamin B. It also may be due to irritation from hot or spicy foods, or alcohol. The condition appears to be less common in smokers.The change in pattern on the surface of the tongue occurs when there is a loss of the tiny, finger-like projections, called papillae, on the tongue. These areas look flat as a result. The appearance of the tongue may change very quickly. The flat-looking areas may remain for more than a month. Symptoms Symptoms include:Map-like appearance to the surface of the tongue Patches that move from day to day Smooth, red patches and sores (lesions) on the tongue Soreness and burning pain (in some cases) Exams and Tests Your health care provider will diagnose this condition by looking at your tongue. Most of the time, tests are not needed. Treatment No treatment is needed. Antihistamine gel or steroid mouth rinses may help ease discomfort. Outlook (Prognosis) Geographic tongue is a harmless condition. It may be uncomfortable and last for a long time. When to Contact a Medical Professional Contact your provider if the symptoms last longer than 10 days. Seek medical help right away if:You have breathing problems. Your tongue is severely swollen. You have problems speaking, chewing, or swallowing. Prevention Avoid irritating your tongue with hot or spicy food or alcohol if you are prone to this condition.Open ReferencesReferencesDaniels TE, Jordan RC. Diseases of the mouth and salivary glands. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 397.James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Disorders of the mucous membranes. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 34.Pham KL, Mirowski GW. Oral diseases and oral manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 24.AllVideoImagesTogTongue - illustration The tongue is mainly composed of muscles. It is covered with a mucous membrane. Small nodules of tissue, called papillae, cover the upper surface of the tongue. Between the papillae are the taste buds, which provide the sense of taste. In addition to taste, the tongue functions in moving food to aid chewing and swallowing, and it is important in speech.TongueillustrationTongue - illustration The tongue is mainly composed of muscles. It is covered with a mucous membrane. Small nodules of tissue, called papillae, cover the upper surface of the tongue. Between the papillae are the taste buds, which provide the sense of taste. In addition to taste, the tongue functions in moving food to aid chewing and swallowing, and it is important in speech.TongueillustrationRelated Information Allergies(Condition)Allergic rhinitis(In-Depth) Review Date: 2/1/2021 Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- © 1997- All rights reserved. A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.