Geographical tongue is a form of glossitis - called benign migratory glossitis.
Glossitis can indicate other problems, which may be local, such as poorly-fitting dentures, irritants such as alcohol, tobacco and spicy foods. It can also be a sign of diseases such as vitamin deficiencies or anaemia. Geographic tongue is not associated with any of the above.
Geographic tongue is characterized by smooth areas (absence of normal taste buds) on the tongue with a slightly elevated whitish border. The shape of lesions is variable (= geographic).
Lesions change shape over a period of days. These lesions do not cause symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for geographic tongue.
When to see your doctor
You should see your doctor if you have any abnormality of the tongue, particularly if the appearance is strange or it is painful.
Reviewed by Prof H.F. Jordaan