(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
It may be inherited from parents. There may be an allergic component.
It is not thought to be infectious. It is associated rarely with psoriasis. It has no
Diagnosis can be made just from the appearance. However, various forms of
anæmia have to be discounted first.
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.
|Last Updated 15th December 2014