Not only does your tongue help you speak and eat, but it also says a lot about your health. A tongue that is pink and covered with tiny pink bumps called papillae is an indicator of a healthy mouth and body. A tongue that is covered in a white film, bright red bumps or has an appearance of being hairy is a sign of illness and should prompt you to make an appointment with Dr. Caracioni for a further look.
But what about when the top of your tongue is covered in bald, red patches edged with a white border? If your tongue looks like a map of the world, you could have a condition known as geographic tongue, also known as benign migratory glossitis.
What is geographic tongue? Geographic tongue is an inflammatory condition that affects 1 to 2.5 percent of the American population. It usually affects the top and sides of the tongue and causes bald patches without papillae. These spots, called geographic stomatitis, can also develop in other parts of the mouth such as the cheeks and gums.
What causes geographic tongue? There is no known cause of the condition, but many researchers think it develops from a deficiency in vitamin B12 as well as iron and folate. Other possible causes connected to the condition include stress, allergies and the changes in hormones brought on by menopause. Behavioral factors like smoking, drinking and using drugs may also increase the risk of developing geographic tongue. Some researchers have linked the development of geographic tongue to autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and psoriasis.
Is geographic tongue contagious? Does it go away? No – on both counts. Geographic tongue is not contagious, and while it may come and go, it never completely goes away.
Are there treatments for geographic tongue? Since geographic tongue is typically painless, there is usually no real need for treatment. Some patients with geographic tongue do experience sharp pain or a burning feeling in their tongue and may be prescribed oral or topical pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce symptoms.
Do you think you have geographic tongue? Call Dr. Caracioni for a checkup at 785-783-0741.