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Migratory glossitis - Oral Mucosal Lesion
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Migratory glossitis - Oral Mucosal Lesion

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Contributors: Carl Allen DDS, MSD, Sook-Bin Woo MS, DMD, MMSc
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Migratory glossitis is a chronic relapsing-recurring inflammatory / immune-mediated condition of the oral cavity of unknown etiology. Although the tongue is the most common site of occurrence, it may affect other parts of the mouth. It may begin in childhood but also affects adults; females are twice as likely to be afflicted. Migratory glossitis is seen in approximately 1% to 2% of the population, and the condition often accompanies fissured tongue.

The lesional areas are most often asymptomatic, but some patients may complain of a burnt or raw sensation. Eating hot or spicy foods will increase these symptoms. As a result, patients tend to avoid acidic and spicy foods when the lesions are present. Migratory glossitis waxes and wanes and is present for decades.

Histopathologically, migratory glossitis is characterized by a psoriasiform mucositis, and several studies have suggested that the condition is somewhat more frequent in psoriatic patients. Atopic individuals may also have an increased prevalence of migratory glossitis.

For more information, see OMIM.


K14.0 – Glossitis

59032001 – Benign migratory glossitis

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Erythroplakia may look similar, especially in very late lesions when the raised white rim is not evident. However, erythroplakia would not resolve entirely, nor would it migrate over the tongue.
  • Erythematous / erosive lichen planus or other lichenoid lesions do not tend to migrate, although they may wax and wane in any one area. These lichenoid lesions have fine white radiating striae at their periphery, rather than a linear white border.
  • Erythematous candidiasis presents either as diffuse papillary atrophy of the dorsal tongue or as a sharply demarcated red area of the mid-posterior dorsum (median rhomboid glossitis). Resolution following antifungal therapy would be expected.
  • Contact stomatitis or hypersensitivity reactions are associated with the placement of a caustic or allergenic agent.

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Last Updated: 03/29/2017
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Migratory glossitis - Oral Mucosal Lesion
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Migratory glossitis : Atrophic patch tongue, Dorsal tongue, Geographic tongue, Recurring episodes or relapses, Glossodynia
Clinical image of Migratory glossitis
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