Geographic tongue, or migratory glossitis, presents a somewhat alarming appearance, but is actually quite harmless. It makes your tongue look kind of like a map, hence the name. Oddly, the condition heals on one area of the tongue, but then migrates to another, which may be particularly startling to the victim.
Causes of Geographic Tongue
The tongue's surface is normally covered with a layer of tiny bumps, or papillae. When parts of the tongue are missing sections of this layer, smooth smf irregularly shaped red patches form, seemingly right out of the blue. The red areas may or may not be outlined with cream-coloured or white borders.
It really isn't known why the tongues of some individuals may lose patches of papillae. However, it's believed that geographic tongue seems to run in families. It's also thought that there may be some connection to diabetes in some individuals.
Other possibilities include allergies, psoriasis, hormonal changes, atopic dermatitis, use of systemic steroids and even excessive stress. This annoying condition can occur in people of any age, and may be somewhat more common in women.
Most research studies on geographic tongue have been inconclusive and even contradictory, so the relationship between the condition and other factors is unknown.
Geographic tongue is typically painless, although some individuals may experience discomfort, or even some soreness or burning when exposed to acidic or spicy substances. The temporary condition isn't infectious or contagious, and doesn't cause any illness, health risks, damage or scarring.
You can expect the red patches to change colour, size or location, often within hours or even minutes, as affected areas heal and disappear. This can strike fear or anxiety in your heart, but do your best to remain calm. The symptoms of geographic tongue shouldn't last more than about 10 days, but do be aware that the condition is known to recur.
Some toothpastes may aggravate any soreness present due to geographic tongue. Those which contain heavy flavouring, tartar control or whitening agents are the most likely to irritate geographic tongue. An excellent alternative is to add a little water to baking soda to form a thick paste. Just use that for brushing your teeth and tongue until everything clears up.
Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in 118ml of very warm water to prepare a healing oral rinse for use up to a half dozen times daily. Don't eat or drink for about 30 minutes following the rinses.
If you're experiencing pain from geographic tongue, purchase over-the-counter oral or throat anesthetics. They are readily available at any pharmacy as liquids, lozenges, sprays or strips. These can all help by numbing the affected area. Over-the-counter Benadryl products are very helpful to many people, too.
Brew a pitcher of strong cinnamon tea and refrigerate it. Pour yourself a cup and add a tablespoon of honey to it and drink several times daily. The honey is soothing and the cinnamon has been said to reduce the size and quantity of red patches in some people. Besides, the tea itself is comforting and will help you to relax, thereby reducing stress.
An ice cube held on the affected area can bring temporary relief of burning sensations.
Avoid smoking tobacco or other substances, which can cause discomfort. Stay away from acidic, hot or spicy foods and beverages because they can produce a burning sensation. Some people also find that drinks containing alcohol are irritating.