Psoriasis can affect any area of skin, including that of the mouth and tongue. The condition can cause cracks to form on the tongue or smooth patches, in a complication called geographic tongue.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition. It causes a person’s skin to grow faster than average, resulting in red and often scaly patches of skin.
These patches can form anywhere on the body. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the most common areas are the scalp, elbows, and knees.
Less frequently, psoriasis affects the mouth. Oral psoriasis can cause red patches with yellow or white edges to form on the tongue.
Read on to learn more about the symptoms, risk factors, and treatments for psoriasis on the tongue.
Psoriasis can cause noticeable changes in the color, texture, and feeling of the tongue.
For example, people with psoriasis are more likely to develop an inflammatory condition called geographic tongue, or erythema migrans.
The condition stems from an issue with the immune system. It causes the tongue’s skin cells to grow and shed at an irregular rate, resulting in smooth patches.
An estimated 10 percent of people with psoriasis experience geographic tongue, compared to 1–2 percent of the general population.
Symptoms of psoriasis on the tongue include:
- red patches with yellow or white borders
- swelling and redness on the tongue
- smooth patches
- fissures or cracks in the surface of the tongue
Psoriasis on the tongue can be tricky to diagnose because signs may be mild or even unnoticeable.
However, for some people, these symptoms can lead to pain or swelling so severe that it makes eating or drinking difficult.
Authors of a 2016 study concluded that identifying the cause of issues such as geographic tongue can be difficult. Not all people with geographic tongue have psoriasis, but the two conditions are likely linked.
A thorough examination and testing can help a doctor determine if a person with geographic tongue has oral psoriasis.
Psoriasis typically does not affect the mouth. When it does, people may experience the following symptoms:
- peeling skin on the gums
- sores or pustules in or around the mouth
- pain or a burning sensation when eating hot or spicy foods
- a noticeable change in taste
In most cases, the patches or sores will appear on the inside of the cheeks.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation in the United States, about 10 percent of people are born with one or more gene that makes them prone to psoriasis in general. However, only 2–3 percent of these people actually develop the condition.
To develop psoriasis, a person must have at least one of the relevant genes and be exposed to triggers.
Several factors can trigger psoriasis, including:
- injury to the skin
Psoriasis may affect only one area of the body or several, and it may arise in new places. No matter where it occurs, psoriasis is not contagious, so a person cannot pass on the condition to others.
Many treatments can help people manage their psoriasis symptoms.
Oral psoriasis sometimes requires no treatment. However, consult a doctor if the symptoms interfere with daily activities.
The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories or topical anesthetics for people with oral psoriasis. These medications can help reduce inflammation and pain, making it easier to eat and drink.
A person may notice improvements in oral psoriasis if they treat body-wide symptoms. Typically, when treating psoriasis, a doctor will prescribe medications, such as:
To prevent psoriasis symptoms from flaring up, it can help to avoid triggers. For psoriasis on the tongue, a person can:
- avoid spicy or very hot foods
- quit smoking
- use mouth rinses
- practice good oral hygiene
It can also help to reduce stress, which can worsen symptoms.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that forms patches of dry or broken skin. It can affect skin on any part of the body, including the tongue and mouth.
A person can manage symptoms by avoiding triggers and taking medication. Triggers can include certain foods, some medicines, and stress.
Seek treatment for psoriasis, even if symptoms are mild. A doctor can develop an overall treatment plan to help reduce the number of flare-ups.
Some people with psoriasis find that it affects their mental health. Counselors can provide support.