Is your tongue perfectly pink in color or do you see white map-like patches on it? If you do, then you are suffering from a condition called a geographic tongue.
The name comes from the pattern of the red and white patches in your tongue form which gives it a map-like shape.
Some parts of your tongue shed quickly becoming red while others stay in place forming white patches. The red areas usually do not contain the papillae.
That said, it is a benign condition and there is nothing to worry about. Though, it can be uncomfortable.
If you want to know more about this condition, keep reading below.
Geographic Tongue: Symptoms
The very obvious symptom is the appearance of your tongue.
The disorganized red and white patches will look like a map. These irregular lesions are also on the side of the tongue and not only the top.
In fact, the red patches can form on the gums, inside the cheeks and the top of the mouth.
Another name for these rashes is erythema migrans or geographic stomatitis.
What’s more, the red patches in particular look smoother than the white ones. This indicates the absence of tiny bumps known as papillae.
The papillae are important to taste foods as they carry taste buds, assist in chewing and overall protect the tongue.
Plus these red lesions with a white border are of different shapes and sizes. Their location, as well as appearance, can change time and again.
Hence, their shape and size will not remain the same either.
Do they hurt? They may or may not.
Certain foods can trigger an uncomfortable burning sensation when you eat them.
These are usually spicy and acidic foods.
Thus, there can be discomfort, burning, tingling or stinging pain and sensation in your tongue.
However, it will only be mild in nature. Like the patches, the pain can also come and go.
Moreover, it can last as long as the lesions last too. The lesions can stay for years or even days. When they go, they can come again.
That said, usually, there are no symptoms at all and the lesions appear to disappear on their own without requiring treatment.
Though do not take it lightly, if the patches remain in place for more than 10 days, it is time to consult your doctor.
They will first like to find out the cause behind your condition. There can be many, let’s find out!
Geographic Tongue Causes
The exact cause of this condition is unknown. However, certain conditions may trigger it too. Thus, it is rather their symptom.
Moreover, it is present in families, therefore it can be heredity.
People lacking folic acid, zinc, Vitamin B6, B12 and iron are at risk of getting it.
Hence, geographic tongue treatment with vitamin B, can help recover the deficiencies.
If you are prone to eczema and allergies such as hay fever then you are susceptible to the tongue condition.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that has a link with a geographic tongue as people with Psoriasis get the tongue condition too.
A fissured tongue is when there are grooves on the top surface and sides of your tongue.
Both of these could stem from a genetic and hereditary link.
The imbalance of the hormones and in particular surges due to taking birth control pills can result in the condition.
The surge in the female hormones may be behind the condition of your tongue.
If you are currently under stress the maybe that is what is causing this to happen to your tongue.
Surprisingly there is a link between being more stressed and this condition.
Having Type 1 diabetes puts you at a greater risk for this condition.
While you do need specific treatment for the condition, you may want to consult a doctor because its appearance is becoming embarrassing for you.
It can become a cause of concern and anxiety. Hence, shun that all away by consulting a doctor for a diagnosis.
They will look into your symptoms, do a physical exam and ask for any discomfort.
While it is a benign, harmless condition, there are chances that it points to a more serious health problem.
Treating the Condition
If it does not signal towards a more harmless condition, your doctor will advise you to identify your triggers and avoid them.
This harmless condition does not need any treatment, however, if the pain really bothers you, then your doctor can prescribe a few medicines.
Pain medications can slightly make the burning and stinging sensation better.
Hence, even if for a while, taking pain delivers can soothe your discomfort.
Not only can you take pain medicines but also apply analgesics onto your tongue.
This will directly work on your affected area and can provide some relief from pain.
Rinsing with a mouthwash can help to decrease the stinging sensation.
However, not any mouth rinse will work!
You should rinse your mouth with one containing an antihistamine or an anesthetic.
The antihistamine works against an allergic reaction. Therefore, if you have one then rinsing with a mouthwash can help contain the effects of the reaction.
An anesthetic mouthwash will slightly numb your pain so that you do not feel an extreme pain.
- NSAIDs or Corticosteroids
Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can soothe the pain.
Similarly using corticosteroids rinses and applying ointments will lessen the discomfort felt.
- Taking Vitamin B Supplements
If the condition is stemming from a vitamin deficiency then you can certainly benefit from taking supplements.
Among vitamins, a lack of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 can be the likely culprits.
Hence, taking supplements can bring a change to your condition.
However, just like the exact cause, there is no perfect treatment for this condition that may come and go on its own.
Therefore, you cannot really tell if these treatments are working and that is why your condition is resolved.
Plus, you can also manage your symptoms by using home remedies.
Geographic Tongue Natural Treatment
If you want to naturally reduce the unpleasant symptoms that come with this condition then think about the triggers that cause them.
Common symptoms are:
- Burning sensation
- Tingling and stinging on the tongue
Thus recall when do you usually feel it.
Is it in the morning when you brush your teeth?
Does it happen when you eat specific foods at lunchtime or dinner?
Or does that happen when you are smoking or chewing tobacco?
All of these situations point towards the triggers.
Surprisingly, toothpaste is also one of these.
The ones containing flavors, additives, astringent cleaning ingredients, whitening agents can contribute towards irritation on the tongue.
Therefore, read the ingredients list before you buy toothpaste. Rather go for one that caters to sensitive teeth.
When it comes to food, certain categories can trigger burning similar to that in a burnt tongue.
These are usually hot and spicy foods.
Though acidic, sweet and salty can be blamed for it too.
Dry and salty nuts can also become triggering.
So what should you do? Avoid these foods and eat a rather bland diet till your tongue feels better.
Tobacco and alcohol can also harm the sensitive oral tissues in your tongue, thus aggravating them.
Therefore, quit smoking and alcohol if they tend to sting your mouth badly, or at least reduce their intake.
Following these precautions will help to provide some relief against the symptoms.
Thus, avoid anything that you think is the reason behind your discomfort.
The condition may heal on its own time but at least it will not be as painful while it lasts.
1. Is the condition contagious?
It is not contagious and will, therefore, not pass to anyone else when you are sharing utensils.
2. Are there any side effects of the treatment?
If your doctor prescribes you NSAIDs then side effects can occur even if rare.
You can suffer from stomach ulcers, heartburn, high blood pressure, stomach pain, headache and lightheadedness.
However, they may only appear when you have been taking NSAIDs for a long time.
3. Can it turn cancerous?
No, it will not. A geographic tongue is benign, harmless.
It cannot progress on to become something more dangerous. Therefore, it will remain on your tongue with changing patterns.
4. Does it cause anxiety?
If your tongue’s appearance really bothers you, then it can be concerning.
That harms your self-esteem, you become conscious and anxious. However, it is not something you cannot handle.
You can consult a psychologist but also work on self-esteem yourself to improve how you feel about yourself.
5. Can I take Zinc supplements to treat it?
Well, if your doctor diagnosis a vitamin and mineral deficiency specifically of zinc, then taking the supplements can help with your condition.
However, do not take any supplements without the prescription and recommendation of your doctor.
An excess of minerals and vitamins can cause harm too. Thus, if your doctor recommends zinc supplements for curing a geographic tongue, you can take them accordingly.
It is best to not worry about this condition as it will only appear and disappear on its own. However, finding the cause and the triggers can help to stop it.
Plus, if the symptoms for a geographic tongue persist for more than 10 days, consult your doctor anyway as it could hint towards a bigger underlying disease.