Pharmacy Clinical Pearl: Geographic Tongue

OTC Guide, 2022 OTC Guide,

Geographic tongue is an inflammatory but harmless condition affecting the surface of the tongue.


  • The tongue is normally covered with pinkish-white, tiny bumps (papillae), which are fine, hairlike, short projections.
  • With geographic tongue, patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae and appear as red, smooth “islands,” often with slightly raised borders.
  • These patches, or lesions, give the tongue a geographic, or map-like, appearance.
  • The lesions often heal in 1 area and then migrate to a different part of the tongue.
  • Geographic tongue is also known as benign migratory glossitis.
  • Symptoms include discomfort and pain; irregular, red, and smooth patches; and frequent changes in the location, shape, and size.
  • Risk factors may include family history and fissured tongue.
  • Treatment includes mouth rinses with anesthetics, antihistamines, and corticosteroids; OTC pain relievers; and vitamin B supplements.