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Benign migratory glossitis also known as geographic tongue is a harmless medical condition in which inflammation-causing lesions emerge on the tongue. These lesions are island-shaped and often resemble maps. They cause discomfort while having foods that are spicy, sweet, and/or salty. These lesions may have white borders and edges and often appear on the upper tongue and sides of the tongue, giving a ragged and uneven look. This condition can occur in people of any age group, however, more common in women.

3D Medical Animation Illustrating Benign Migratory Glossitis
3D Medical Animation Illustrating Benign Migratory Glossitis


Signs and symptoms of benign migratory glossitis or geographic tongue include:

  • Reddish, irregular-shaped, smooth patches/lesions on the top or side of the tongue
  • Pain, discomfort, or burning sensation while eating spicy or acidic foods
  • Frequent changes in the location, shape, and size of the lesions
  • White or light-colored borders which often are slightly raised around the edges of the lesions
  • Patches that come and go very rapidly

Some have also observed that people who suffer from geographic tongue may show no symptoms at all. This condition can continue for days, months, or years. This medical condition is known to resolve on its own but may recur later.

People who suffer from geographic tongue are also prone to developing a fissured tongue as these conditions are known to develop concurrently. Fissured tongue is marked by cracks and grooves that appear on the surface of the tongue which can be irritating and painful.


While medical resources claim that the reason behind the development of benign migratory glossitis is not known yet, they also say that people having the following conditions are at risk of developing this disease.

  • Psoriasis: In this medical condition, skin-cells build up on the surface of the skin which turns into thick scaly patches. These patches are often itchy and cause discomfort. People suffering from this condition are more prone to getting a geographic tongue.
  • Pregnancy: As pregnant women undergo a lot of hormonal changes and the baby drains a lot of nutrients from the mother’s body, they can become vitamin deficient. So they may experience symptoms like a geographic tongue.
  • Vitamin B deficiency: People with vitamin B deficiency are also prone to develop a geographic tongue. These people have more bald areas on their tongue and they are more likely to experience inflammation, swelling, and other symptoms.
  • Lichen Planus: This inflammatory medical condition causes lesions and bumps on the surface of the skin or inside the mouth. The oral form of this condition can be a geographical tongue.


As per medical resources, benign migratory glossitis doesn’t have any cure. The symptoms often disappear within a few days or weeks, however, to manage sensitivity and discomfort, your doctor may recommend any of the options below.

  • OTC medicines: Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium may be prescribed to ease pain and discomfort.
  • Avoiding flavored toothpaste: Your doctor may recommend avoiding highly flavored toothpaste that irritates the tongue.
  • Avoiding problematic foods: Some foods that are usually spicy, acidic, salty, or sweet may cause irritation. If you experience irritation or burning sensation, your doctor might ask you to avoid them.
  • Using prescription medicine: Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid rinse which helps in reducing the pain and irritation. A mouth rinse with a mild anesthetic may also help reduce pain and irritation on the tongue.

Disclaimer: The information in no way constitutes, or should be construed as medical advice. Nor is the above article an endorsement of any research findings discussed in the article an endorsement for any of the source publications.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/geographic-tongue
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/geographic-tongue/symptoms-causes/syc-20354396
  3. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/qa/what-is-geographic-tongue
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3D Medical Animation Illustrating Benign Migratory Glossitis
March 18, 2021

Benign migratory glossitis also known as geographic tongue is a harmless medical condition in which inflammation-causing lesions emerge on the tongue. These lesions are island-shaped and often resemble maps. They cause discomfort while having foods that are spicy, sweet, and/or salty.

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