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Posted by Dr. Monica Wonnacott | March 1, 2016

Check Out This Tongue. Its Geographic!

This super cute patient of mine came in this week with a cool tongue finding. It’s not an every-day occurrence, but something I see every few months (it happens more commonly in adults)—the geographic tongue. It’s called such because the tongue looks like a map. The other terms are benign migratory glossitis and erythema migrans (docs love diagnosing these fancy names because it makes us feel smart). Geographic tongue is an inflammatory condition of the tongue where the papillae (small bumps) are missing in different areas.

The quick facts on geographic tongue:

  1. It’s totally benign (not cancer)
  2. A small percentage (less than 10%) get discomfort or burning sensation with certain substances (spicy foods, cigarettes, etc.).
  3. Affects 1-3% of people
  4. Looks like irregular, red, smooth patches on the tongue
  5. Can come-and-go/change patterns
  6. No cure (treatment is only if there are associated symptoms, like topical pain relievers)
  7. Cause is unknown (there are theories about it being genetically linked)
  8. Typically lasts months to years (but can last indefinitely)

So the next time your kid sticks out his or her tongue, take a look. If there’s a treasure map, I want in.

-Thanks to the cute mom who let me snap a pic of her kiddo.