Geographic tongue (also known as erythema migrans) is a common condition that most often affects the top surface of the tongue, but can rarely affect other areas of the mouth. It occurs in roughly two percent of the population and is considered to be a variant of normal anatomy. This means that it is not a disease and does not require any active treatment.

Geographic tongue causes the surface of the tongue to look red or “bald”. The red areas on the tongue can often have a white outline and usually come and go over time. This can give the tongue an appearance similar to islands on a map, hence the name of the condition. In some people, the tongue can feel sore or stingy at times. In this case, simple anaesthetic sprays and mouthwashes can give temporary relief. Some people with geographic tongue need to avoid eating spicy or very acidic food as a result.

The condition can usually be easily diagnosed following a thorough examination and does not require any further investigations or biopsy.