What is geographic tongue and what is it caused by?

Expert Answers
pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Geographic tongue is a rare, benign condition in which the tongue is covered with raised red lesions which have lost their papillae. These lesions often have a white border, giving the tongue a map-like appearance, hence the name. Lesions may heal and then reoccur in a different pattern; while some patients will go through periods of having no lesions, the condition is generally considered to have no cure. If the patient has burning or other discomfort, antihistamines or steroids can be applied directly to the tongue to get relief. Some geographic tongue sufferers also find that they can reduce the lesion outbreaks by avoiding certain trigger foods; often these are foods which are hot or spicy.

The cause is unknown, but the condition sometimes runs in families, and studies have shown that it is more common in individuals who also suffer from psoriasis. In some female patients, the lesions also seem to show links to the monthly hormone cycles, with lesions peaking in mid-cycle just after ovulation.