Geographic tongue is a condition that occurs in .1 to 14.3 per cent of the healthy population. The sufferers of this condition can be otherwise very healthy. Babies who develop this condition are overall healthy, and their parents often notice the condition only due to a change in colour or texture of the baby's tongue.
The visible symptoms of geographic tongue include a smooth, red patch on the baby's tongue. This is typically surrounded by a circle of white beads on the tongue. This patch can be depressed and there can be more than one at a time. These often appear quite suddenly.
There is no known cause to geographic tongue. There are theories that it is related to psoriasis through the same chromosome patterns. There is also evidence that the condition may be genetic, as it can be seen in relation with other genetic disorders and diseases. A hormonal change may also account for geographic tongue, although this is not yet proven. The idea that the condition is due to spicy or hot foods has been disproved.
There currently is no recommended treatment for geographic tongue. This is because the condition is self limiting and resolves itself. The tongue may not completely heal at a single time, with a new depression or lesion forming as an old one heals. This can occur several times a day and can continue for a time period between a day to a month. In the past, a topical version of Retin-A was found to have some effect, although this is not commonly prescribed anymore.
Since there is no known cause to the condition, there is no known way to prevent the condition. Preventing discomfort while the geographic tongue is active is possible though. The foods to avoid are very sour or spicy foods. These foods can irritate the lesions on the tongue and cause pain. So keep this in mind as you begin to introduce the baby to new foods.
The condition geographic tongue is so named because of the map-like shapes on the tongue that the condition causes. In addition, since the lesions form and heal so quickly, this provides a constantly changing landscape, reminiscent of someone moving over a map.