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Mouth Diseases

Circular red spot on tongue

01/06/2009

Question:

My 21 year old son has a circular red spot on his tongue. He said it started out as a small white spot like an ulcer, but has now enlarged to a red circular spot about 1/2" in diameter. What could it be?

Answer:

There are a couple of things that may be causing this discoloration on the tongue. Without actually examining the mouth, I can only guess what is going on.

One possibility is that your son has what is known as “geographic tongue” or “benign migratory glossitis”. This disorder is characterized by the loss of filiform papillae that result in reddened irregular circular macules (circinate lesions) surrounded by a white band. The lesions heal, and then others erupt. The cause of BMG is unknown but has been linked with psoriasis, diabetes, stress, anemia, elevated Candida yeast carriage, changes in diet (cheese, fruits, and some vegetables have been associated with occurrences) and hormonal imbalances related to menstrual cycles and pregnancy.

There is no gender or age predilection for BMG, but may have a genetic component as BMG has been associated with familial clustering.

Fungal infection (erythematous candidiasis) may be considered but in most cases would not be observed as a well circumscribed circular patch. Trauma secondary to biting the tongue may be related to a circular lesion but generally there would be an associated laceration on the dorsum of the tongue.

If it persists, I would suggest that you have your dentist or primary care provider evaluate this condition.

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Response by:

Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
School of Dental Medicine
Case Western Reserve University