Do You Have A Geographic Tongue?

Illustration for article titled Do You Have A Geographic Tongue?

Here's a very pretty version of a condition shared by two to three percent of the population. It causes patterns, often map-like patterns, on the tongue.


Normally, the human tongue is covered with tiny papillae. These hairlike structures can look pink or white, and they look a bit like a film over the top of the tongue. But people with geographic tongue have bare patches on their tongue. These patches show darker pink or red against the rest of the tongue, and because they lack papillae they have a different texture.

Illustration for article titled Do You Have A Geographic Tongue?

The tongue above has exotic-looking curlicues, but most people with geographic tongue just have patches that look like pink islands in a white sea. They make the tongue look like a map, which is how the condition gets its name. The patches fill with papillae over time, but other spots lose their papillae, so the islands usually migrate over to other parts of the tongue. The lingual geography shifts.

Although geographic tongue may be more common in people with psoriasis, it's not dangerous. The largest health effects are a slight burning on the bare patches when eating spicy food. The most severe complication listed by the Mayo Clinic is "It may be difficult to be reassured that there is, in fact, nothing wrong." Geographic tongue is just another interesting variation in the human body.

Images: Martanopue, Medline Plus.

[Sources: Geographic Tongue]


Share This Story

Get our newsletter


I have that. It's a family trait. My nephew and Grandmother has it too.

Growing up, we would cross the occasional person who would flip their lid over it. Thinking I had a serious disease or that I had burned my tongue. Nope. That's just how I was born. I even had to convince my nephew's teacher that everything was okay with him. She practically demanded that I take him to the doctor, have him examined and bring back the results. She and her teacher's assistant were so utterly freaked out by his tongue. I said there was nothing wrong with him. And to look up, "Geographical tongue." Even showed her my tongue to show how it was genetic. Both of them looked at me like I was lying. As if I was some weird cult where we all damage our tongues. A tongue cult.

It's just a silly looking tongue, people. Relax.

As far as tastes go, yeah, I can't drink things like alcohol and coffee. Too bitter. And alcohol stings. And I don't like sour things. I wonder if there are a higher majority of supertasters among people with geographical tongues than those without those tongues.