Fissured tongue is a benign condition that is most commonly seen in patients with Down syndrome or Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome. However, this condition affects the general population too and it is not considered to be dangerous.
Fissured tongue is also called lingua plicata, plicated tongue furrowed tongue or scrotal tongue, as it sometimes resembles the scrotum. It is characterized by fissures and grooves on the upper part of the tongue, and it is also associated with a condition called geographic tongue.
Causes of fissured tongue
Fissured tongue can be caused by several factors, but in some cases it is hard or impossible to determine the exact cause. In some people it is inherited, and in some it is associated with the Down syndrome or with the Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.
This condition can also be caused by unconscious biting on the tongue, especially during sleep. It may also be caused by spicy or hot foods that irritate the tongue.
Other reasons include shipped or uneven teeth that scrape the tongue and create fissures, uneven tongue surface, tobacco chewing, food allergies and acid reflux.
The worst-case scenario is that the fissures are a symptom of tongue cancer on the surface or inside the tongue.
Symptoms of fissured tongue
In most of the cases, the appearance of the tongue is the only symptom. The top or the sides of the tongue have fissures, curves, grooves or clefts, and they are only seen on the tongue, not on other parts of the mouth.
Fissures can be superficial and shallow or rather deep, in some cases even 6 millimeters in depth. The grooves sometimes connect to each other, giving an appearance of small lobes or sections that divide the tongue.
Geographic tongue is a condition associated with tongue fissures. It is characterized by the top layer of the tongue that sheds away, leaving the tongue red and tender, which looks a geographic map. This condition is known for reoccurring even after it completely heals.
Treatment for fissured tongue
As fissures on the tongue rarely, or never, cause other problems, like pain or infection, a specific cure is generally not required. Doctors, however, recommend brushing the surface of the tongue to remove the debris once the fissure heals completely. The debris can be made of bacterial waste matter and saliva and it can cause bad breath.
As mentioned above, the pain associated with tongue fissures is very rare, and if it occurs, it is strongly recommended to see a doctor.