Most people are alarmed the first time they notice a change in the appearance of their tongue termed ‘geographic tongue’. The condition got its name because sometimes the tongue can look like it has a map, with irregular red patches alternating with white patches. It can look rather scary at times. The dorsum and or lateral borders of the tongue can develop red ‘bald’ patches often with a white border. The red patches seem to be missing the papillae (little bumps) that normally appear on the dorsal surface of the tongue. Fissuring of the tongue may also be present. The appearance and position of these red patches can and does change from time to time.

Most of the time, this condition is relatively asymptomatic and requires no treatment. Some patients report a burning sensation on their tongues when eating certain foods or beverages (alcohol, acidic ,or spicy) . If the symptoms become severe the condition can be treated with topical application of corticosteroids.