Oral cavity & oropharynx
Inflammatory (noninfectious)
Geographic tongue

Topic Completed: 1 February 2013

Minor changes: 12 October 2020

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PubMed Search: Geographic tongue[TIAB] oral cavity

Charu Thakral, M.D.
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Cite this page: Thakral C. Geographic tongue. PathologyOutlines.com website. https://www.pathologyoutlines.com/topic/oralcavitygeographictongue.html. Accessed May 16th, 2021.
Definition / general
  • Inflammatory disorder characterized by asymptomatic erythematous patches with serpiginous borders
  • Local loss of filiform papillae leads to ulcer-like lesions that rapidly change color and size
  • Associated with common cold, work / home stress
  • Associated with tongue fissures
  • Also called benign migratory glossitis, glossitis migrans
  • 1 - 2% of population, usually adults
Case reports
  • Usually none in asympomatic patients
Clinical images

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Before and after therapy

Before and after therapy

Geographic tongue

Gross description
  • Erythematous flat zone on tongue dorsum due to loss of filiform papillae
Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Acanthosis with neutrophils throughout epithelium and surface microabscesses, plus inflammatory infiltrate in lamina propria
  • Resembles psoriasis
Microscopic (histologic) images

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Psoriform epidermal hypertrophy

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