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111: What is Geographic Tongue? (Is It a Sign of Psoriasis?)

Have you ever heard of Geographic Tongue?

It certainly sounds strange, but bear with me because it's actually got some interesting connections to psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Some believe that Geographic Tongue (GT) is a sign of psoriasis in the mouth.

In today's episode, I wanted to share with you what GT is, what it means if you have psoriasis, and why it's important NOT to ignore it!

Part of the reason I say you shouldn't ignore it is that I believe your body communicates with you through signs and symptoms. If you've got an issue like this, your body is trying to say something.

Here's why I think Geographic Tongue is an important clue and how to find out if you have it!

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

In this episode:

  • What is Geographic Tongue + its connection to Psoriasis
  • Does everyone with psoriasis get GT?
  • Triggers, medication + conditions associated with GT
  • Can GT be a sign of nutrient deficiencies?
  • Why it would be good to get an oral exam if you’ve got psoriasis

Quotes:

Some sites call Geographic Tongue “psoriasis of the tongue”, but that might not be the case! Not everyone with psoriasis has GT though there is a high association between the two.

The potential for GT to be a sign of nutrient deficiencies underscores why this isn’t something to just blow off.

woman sticking out her tongue showing geographic tongue

111: What is Geographic Tongue? (Is It a Sign of Psoriasis?) (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #111 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today’s episode, I want to share about a potential sign of psoriasis that can show up in your mouth.

This particular issue is called Geographic Tongue.

Honestly, I never heard about it until a number of people wrote to me to ask about it. Not everyone with psoriasis has Geographic Tongue, but like psoriatic lesions, it can make you feel incredibly embarrassed about the look of your tongue.

This is a reminder that signs and symptoms of a condition can show up in very unexpected ways and in areas of the body that you wouldn’t expect. That’s why I constantly tell you to consider ALL SYMPTOMS so that you can get a much clearer picture of what’s going on.

Since I believe that everything is typically connected, it makes sense that GT could have implications for other areas of your body.

If you’ve noticed a funny pattern on your tongue, here’s what could be going on!

Old geographic map

What Is Geographic Tongue?

If you’ve ever seen a funny swirling pattern on someone’s tongue, it probably caught your eye.
Patterns that appear on the surface of the tongue are typically referred to as Geographic Tongue (GT).

It’s a painless condition affecting the top of your tongue. Patterns form that resembles a strange design or even a map (which is where the term comes from).

Though it’s possible for the patterns to go away, it can end up reappearing elsewhere on the tongue.
Typically diagnosed by your doctor or even a dentist, it’s not fully understood what causes Geographic Tongue.

I even found some conflicting information on who exactly GT affects. Some sources say it tends to affect older adults in midlife while other sources found it’s more common in children (especially females).(1,2)

Either way, GT is not contagious.(3)

A lot of people don’t notice anything funny except for the way their tongue looks.

While others find that certain substances bother or irritate their tongue. Triggers can include hot food, spicy food, acidic food, and even your toothpaste and mouthwash.(1) Some symptoms can

include tongue pain and even burning.(2)

man sticking out his tongue showing geographic tongue

How Is Geographic Tongue Connected To Psoriasis?

On some websites, I’ve seen geographic tongue referred to as “psoriasis of the tongue”.

But that might not be the case! Not everyone who has geographic tongue also has psoriasis though it does tend to have the highest association.(2)

Other circumstances where Geographic Tongue is seen include “diabetes mellitus, Reiter's syndrome, Down syndrome, pregnancy, psychological factors, family history and consumption of some medications, such as oral contraceptive pills and lithium carbonate.”(2) Allergies and nutritional deficiencies could also be triggers.

Hormonal imbalances can also play a role in women who develop GT.(3)

There could be a potential shared genetic component here due to “the presence of a common genetic marker, the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) HLA-Cw6.”(2)

One interesting study looked at the incidence of Geographic Tongue and those with Psoriasis. What the researchers found is that there appeared to be an interesting connection between those who had both issues and lifestyle choices such as alcohol use.(4)

It’s not uncommon for those with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis to even end up with permanent fissures on your tongue. One paper that reviewed several different studies found the “prevalence of fissured tongue ranging from 9.8% to 47.5% and of Geographic Tongue between 5.6% and 18.1%.”(2)

Either way, studies seem to show that an oral examination by your doctor or dentist to check the health of your tongue is warranted.

Doctor checking young woman for geographic tongue

How To Treat Geographic Tongue

The ways people go about dealing with Geographic Tongue vary.

If you believe that you have GT, it’s best to make an appointment with your dentist or doctor to get an official diagnosis (especially because fissures can actually end up being permanent).

From what I could find, the following seems to be the conventional route for treating geographic tongue — special mouth rinses that could be antihistamine or antiseptic, pain relief used orally, mouth rinse that contains corticosteroids, and even vitamin B or zinc supplementation.(1)

In most of the articles I read online, nothing is typically done if there are no other symptoms present.

But the reality is that as a clinical nutritionist, the potential for GT to be a sign of nutrient deficiencies underscores why this isn’t something to just blow off.

Increasingly lower levels of critical nutrients can have a profound effect on your health, with or without psoriasis.

The Cleveland Clinic notes that nutritional deficiencies play a potential role. They list the following deficiencies as potential triggers for Geographic Tongue:(5)

  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12

Since a history of birth control pill use is a risk factor, it further underscores why looking at nutritional stores is important. Birth control pills are known to deplete B vitamins like folate, B6, B12, and riboflavin as well as Zinc.(6)

I’ve also found that many of my psoriasis clients tend to have lower or deficient levels of some of these nutrients. That’s why getting certain labs run (which are often covered by insurance) can be really helpful.

And of course, this highlights why looking at symptoms outside of your skin, as well as a complete history, is so critical to getting answers!

I hope you’ve found this helpful and if you’ve got Geographic Tongue, I’d love to hear how you found out about it. Leave your experience and how you care for your tongue in the comments!

And of course, don’t forget to share this episode with someone you know who either has Geographic Tongue or psoriasis! Knowing that the two are connected could help them realize the importance of looking at nutrient levels.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I’ll see you in the next episode!

Woman reading reference books in library

REFERENCES

1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319342.php
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4999097/
3. https://www.aaom.com/geographic-tongue
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25073550
5. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21177-geographic-tongue
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23852908

Some sites call Geographic Tongue “psoriasis of the tongue”, but that might not be the case! Not everyone with psoriasis has GT though there is a high association between the two.


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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