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Mouth Diseases

Red Papillae Patches in Tongue; Really Scared



Hello Dr. I am pretty scared as I have these strange patches or patterns of what seems to be reddish quite enlarged taste buds mostly in the sides of my mouth, but sometimes in the tip or front. Sometimes they appear and go away in some hours or days. They don not really hurt, but i do feel them, there`s a sensation that tells me they`re there. I am very worried about these as i was diagnosed with herpes 3 weeks ago, so I went to a dentist and she told me that they do not look like the avergae tongue herpes sores, as mine won`t blister of hurt. I am very worried because I am currently in my window period for HIV testing due to a insertive oral sex exposure, and the dentist told me that the patches are most likely to be due to anxiety and stress about this situation, and I know I have been really anxious and scared about this.

Does this sound anxiety-related to you? I am very scared this might be some kind of symptom for HIV or something. I tested negative for syphilis. I have been searching HIV acute symptoms, and none of them list tongue conditions as symptoms, but I am still very worried.

the first time I noticed them was 1 week after my exposure, but maybe I`m just paying too much attention to things in my body and looking for symtoms due to anxiety. the first time it went away in like 4 days, and i got them 3 days ago again and they seem to be going away but I am really scared. The detist its not candida or any fungal disease.

I would very much appreciate your answer, as I am very scared this could be HIV related or something, I am in my 5th week of window period before testing and everything "strange" I find on my body I unconsciously relate it to HIV :S.

Thank you very much. :D


The strange patches you describe could be a rather common condition known as geographic tongue (also known as benign migratory glossitis and erythema migrans). They typically come and go with no associated symptoms and may have been present for years before you recently started looking so closely. Although the cause of geographic tongue is uncertain, it has not been related to viral infections including herpes and HIV. You can find additional information regarding geographic tongue at the link below. 

If the patches persist, check again with your dentist just to be sure. But try not to be too worried, as stress does have a way of changing things throughout the body and often not for the better. 

Good luck!

Related Resources:

Geographic Tongue (American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology)

For more information:

Go to the Mouth Diseases health topic, where you can:

Response by:

John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD John R Kalmar, DMD, PhD
Clinical Professor of Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University