Geographic Tongue (Migratory Glossitis, Exfoliative Glossitis, Mottled Tongue)

Geographic Tongue
Body Parts: Head
Medical Subjects: Children's Health Oral Cavity Genetic disease

What Is Geographic Tongue?

The geographic tongue is also called migratory glossitis, exfoliative glossitis, and variegated tongue.


What Is The Cause Of Geographic Tongue?

What factors contribute to Geographic Tongue?

At present, the pathogenesis of Geographic Tongue is still unclear, but it is related to gender, age, spirit, nutrition, heredity and other factors.

  • Age: It is more common for geographic tongue to occur in children. With the growth of age, the probability of geographic tongue is usually lower. Therefore, the onset of geographic tongue may be related to age.
  • Gender: The prevalence of geographic tongue in women is greater than that in men. Therefore, it is considered that the incidence of geographic tongue may be related to estrogen in women. However, no relevant study has clarified this point.
  • Immune factors: Relevant studies have shown that the geographic tongue may be related to immune factors, for the reason may be that children with allergic constitution are prone to autoimmune disorders, and thus inflammatory reactions occur, causing the peeling of the tongue coating, and forming the geographic tongue.
  • Genetic factors: According to the existing scholars, the geographic tongue may be a multi-gene hereditary disease.
  • Nutritional factors: Studies have found that children lacking this trace element zinc are more likely to have geographic tongue. Therefore, zinc deficiency may also be a major cause of geographic tongue. Some scholars have also found that children who suffer from malnutrition due to partial feeding, dyspepsia and vitamin deficiency are also more likely to have geographic tongue. Therefore, malnutrition may also be a major cause of geographic tongue.
  • Mental factors: Some scholars believe that people with high mental stress are more likely to have geographic tongue, but some scholars believe that the two are unrelated. Therefore, there is no clear conclusion yet.

Who are the more frequent of Geographic Tongue?

Children frequently occur, especially in children aged 6–18 months, or in the young and middle-aged population, with more females than males.

Where does the Geographic Tongue occur?

Geographic Tongue is a superficial, non-infectious glossitis that occurs mainly at the back of the tongue, but also at the side edges of the tongue.


What Are The Symptoms Of The Geographic Tongue?

The main symptoms of geographic tongue

  • Exfoliation of tongue coating: At the early stage of disease, one or more bulges were found on the tip of the tongue or the edge of the tongue, which were gray and circular. Along with the progression of the disease, the center of the bulge was sunken, and the original gray bulge in the center became red plaques, but the surrounding areas were still gray bulges. These gray bulges will gradually expand to the surrounding areas, and the red block in the center will also expand. Finally, the edges of different gray bulges fuse with each other to form an irregular-shaped map-like lesion, which is the exfoliation process of tongue coating.
  • Tongue coating repair: Over time, these irregular map-like lesions spontaneously resolve after one week or several weeks, which is the process of tongue coating repair.
  • Re-peeling and re-repair of tongue coating: Although the old map-like lesion is spontaneously resolving, at the same time, new gray bulge-like lesions will appear in other parts of the tongue, continuing to repeat the process of peeling and repair of tongue coating. In the long run, the course of disease of geographic tongue can last for months or even years.

Other symptoms of geographic tongue

In addition to repeated peeling and repair of the tongue coating, the geographic tongue usually has no other symptoms. However, if infections such as fungi/bacteria are combined, symptoms such as burning pain or dull pain will appear.


How To Treat Geographic Tongue?

Can the geographic tongue heal itself?

The course of the disease of the geographic tongue is longer, which can last for months or even years, but it usually heals itself.

How to prevent or improve geographic tongue?

  • In the diet: avoid picky food, partial food, eat more fresh vegetables, fruits and fish, eggs, beans and other protein-rich foods, eat less fried, barbecue and spicy greasy food.
  • In life: to ensure adequate sleep, regular life, early to bed and early to rise, not to stay up late. Pay attention to oral hygiene, brush your teeth and gargle frequently. Exercise more, exercise more, enhance their physique and immunity.
  • In spirit: learn to adjust their emotions to avoid excessive mental pressure, resulting in depression, irritability and other bad emotions.

Symptomatic Treatment

  • If severe malnutrition exists, identify the type of nutritional deficiency that is responsible. For example, if iron deficiency anemia occurs, iron supplement should be given in time. If the lack of trace elements such as zinc, should be timely supplement of zinc, can take zinc sulfate. Vitamin B preparations should be replenished promptly if vitamin B is lacking.
  • If the tongue shows burning-like pain or dull pain, whether bacterial or fungal infection occurs should be considered, the cause should be found out in time and antibacterial treatment should be carried out.

The above recommendations are applicable not only to patients with geographic tongue but also to people without geographic tongue to prevent the occurrence of geographic tongue.

Of course, it should be noted that for patients already suffering from geographic tongue, if none of the above measures can alleviate the geographic tongue, or the geographic tongue is exacerbated, they need to go to the hospital in time to further clarify the etiology.

Under what circumstances should patients with geographic tongue go to the hospital for treatment?

If only the geographic tongue changes and no other discomfort is observed, then excessive tension is not needed and attention is paid to rest and diet, which can mostly lead to self-cure.

If the geographic tongue also combines with burning-like pain or blunt pain of the tongue, it may be combined with bacterial and fungal infection, and timely doctor visit is required.

If the geographic tongue is combined with severe malnutrition (such as iron deficiency anemia, severe lack of trace elements, and severe weakness and emaciation), you should timely seek medical treatment to identify what kinds of nutrients are lacking and then carry out targeted treatment to avoid affecting the development of children.

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