June 01, 2019

Tongue lesions

When to be concerned

Your tongue is a complex and multifunctional organ, allowing for taste, speech and swallowing. When something goes wrong — biting or burning your tongue, for example — you certainly feel it. But sometimes abnormalities in its appearance can be missed.

Lesions can occur on your tongue for a number of reasons. In most cases, these conditions are harmless and often temporary. Still, certain lesions may signal an underlying issue that requires treatment. That's why it's important to know the warning signs.

Common lesions

Although they may look unusual, these lesions are common and usually don't require treatment:

Geographic tongue

Geographic tongue — With this inflammatory condition — also known as benign migratory glossitis — white and red patches develop on the upper surface of the tongue. The surface takes on the appearance of a map but rarely causes symptoms. The condition often will go away on its own.

  • Cause — The cause is unknown, although contributing factors may include stress, allergies, diabetes and hormones. Some experts consider it an oral form of psoriasis, as the conditions share common tissue characteristics.
  • Treatment — Treatment isn't necessary unless there's discomfort. There's no cure, but topical corticosteroids or other drugs may help control flares. Antifungal treatments may help.

Fissured tongue — With this, small grooves (fissures) form on the upper surface of the tongue. Often, there's a...