DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
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Geographic tongue is a harmless condition affecting the surface of your tongue. The tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish-white bumps (papillae). With geographic tongue, patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae and appear as smooth, red "islands," often with slightly raised borders.
These patches (lesions) give the tongue a map-like, or geographic, appearance. The lesions often heal in one area and then move (migrate) to a different part of your tongue. Geographic tongue is also known as benign migratory glossitis.
Although geographic tongue may look alarming, it doesn't cause health problems and isn't associated with infection or cancer. Geographic tongue can sometimes cause tongue discomfort and increased sensitivity to certain substances.
- Assimakopoulos D, et al. Benign migratory glossitis or geographic tongue: An enigmatic oral lesion. American Journal of Medicine. 2002;113:751.
- Byrd JA, et al. Glossitis and other tongue disorders. Dermatologic Clinics. 2003;21:123.
- Reamy BV, et al. Common tongue conditions in primary care. American Family Physician. 2010;81:627.
- Shulman JD, et al. Prevalence and risk factors associated with geographic tongue among US adults. Oral Diseases. 2006;12:381.
- Carr AB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 23, 2010.