(Benign Migratory Glossitis,
Erythema Migrans Linguæ)
This is a common condition that causes a characteristic
appearance, which experts recognise instantly. The tops of
the tongue, sides and occasionally, under-surface of the
tongue develop irregular, smooth red areas, which may look
like the outline of a map. There are usually wavy, white
lines next to the red patches.
|Photographs of Geographic Tongue
|The cause is unknown. For reasons as yet not understood
the normal top layer of the ‘skin’ of the tongue is not shed
evenly. In some parts the ‘skin’ is shed too early and so
leaves a red, sore area like a scratch on the skin.
Whereas in other areas the skin stays on too long and has
a white appearance. The red areas, because they are thin,
can sometimes become infected with Thrush (Candida)
and so feel sore. Thrush is very common in mouths.
As the red patches are thin and raw, they tend to be sore
when eating acidic things like citrus fruit or spicy foods
especially chillies. However these do not make the
condition worse and you will soon come to notice which
particular foods make things worse.
It may be inherited from parents. There may be an allergic
It is not thought to be infectious. It is associated rarely
with psoriasis. It has no long-term consequences.
Diagnosis can be made just from the appearance.
However, various forms of anæmia have to be discounted
There is no cure. Sometimes treatments for Thrush can
ease the discomfort. You can buy these at the chemist,
e.g. miconazole gel.
You will need to work out for yourself which foods make it
worse and avoid them.
New England Journal of Medicine
New Zealand Dermatological Society
British Dental Health Foundation
Bond's Book of Oral Diseases (4th Edition) / The
Maxillofacial Center for Diagnostics & Research
European Association of Oral Medicine
|Last Updated 22nd November 2010