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    Geographic Tongue (Glossitis) and its Relationship with Celiac Disease

    Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

    Celiac.com 01/27/2011 - In response to a post on the celiac listserv stating that both a pediatrician and a dermatologist dismissed the possibility of a connection between previously diagnosed celiac disease and geographic tongue, I wrote the following:

    One of several early mentions of geographic tongue (glossitis) in association with celiac disease may be found in the medical textbook "Coeliac Disease" by Cooke and Holmes, Churchill Livingstone, 1984, on pages 84 and 85 under the heading "glossitis". They say that it occurs, to a greater or lesser extent, "in a majority of celiac patients" (1). 

    Another very informative article on glossitis can be found at:
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc070200

    In this recent article from the New England Journal of Medicine (2007)  the authors also state that the connection between celiac disease and glossitis is very common. They go on to say: "Our report should alert physicians and dental practitioners to consider celiac disease in managing cases of idiopathic atrophic glossitis." In other words, they want physicians and dentists to be aware that there may be underlying celiac disease when they encounter glossitis. This information is neither controversial nor difficult to locate. Celiac disease is not the only cause of glossitis, or geographic tongue, but it is a common and long acknowledged symptom of celiac disease, with mention of this connection in the medical literature at least as early as 1974.  
       
    My own experience with glossitis is that most of my problems went away when I began a gluten-free diet. The remainder of my glossitis resolved after getting IgG food allergy testing from Immuno Labs in Ft. Lauderdale, and removing all identified allergenic foods from my diet. (I have since re-introduced some of these foods but I avoided them for about 5 years. ( 12 years later, I still have to avoid some of the foods identified by that testing.)

    My questions/concerns are:

    1. Is your daughter eating gluten? Is it possible that there is gluten contamination in her diet?
    2. Is she eating oats? A significant portion of celiac patients do react to oats, yet oat consumption is now widely advocated. 
    3. Has she had testing for common food allergies? If she is strictly gluten-free and avoiding oats, then food allergy testing may provide her with the the information she needs to eliminate this source of her discomfort.  
    I am distressed that neither the pediatrician nor the dermatologist took just a few minutes to run a Medline search that would have informed them about the connection between celiac disease and glossitis and some possible treatments for her problem.  Accidental or intentional gluten consumption, oats consumption, and food allergy testing are all relatively easy for either of these physicians to address. There may, of course, be some other explanation for your daughter's affliction, but these physicians' ignorance of the connection with celiac disease and their failure to run a quick Medline search does not inspire confidence in their opinions.  You might want to pursue a third opinion on this issue, especially since the topical drug she was prescribed falls well short of solving such autoimmune/allergic problems, which almost assuredly is the underlying cause of your daughter's difficulties with her tongue.

    Sources:

    1. Cooke WT, Holmes GKT. Coeliac Disease. Churchill Livingstone, NY, 1984
    2. Pastore L &  Lo Muzio L. Atrophic Glossitis Leading to the Diagnosis of Celiac DiseaseN Engl J Med 2007; 356:2547June 14, 2007
    3. Lampert F, Harms K, Bidlingmaier F, Kiefhaber P, Meister P.Pernicious anemia with dermatologic and neurologic involvement in a 10-year-old boy. Monatsschr Kinderheilkd. 1974 May;122(5):217-20.
    4. Barry RE, Baker P, Read AE.Coeliac disease. The clinical presentation. Clin Gastroenterol. 1974 Jan;3(1):55-69

    I hope this helps.
    Best Wishes,
    Ron

    Ron Hoggan, Ed. D.

    Royal Roads University, Continuing Studies

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    I suffered from geographical tongue long before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I visited my general physician, dentist and ENT specialist. Not one doctor suggested a test for celiac disease. Thank you for this valuable information.

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    Guest Christine Toms

    Posted

    Thank you, this is very much appreciated. The glossitis problem has been with me for over 20 years. I thought it was part of my diagnosed coeliac disease-related difficulty, but you've now confirmed it.

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    Guest Georgia Hartley

    Posted

    Glossitis is an indication of absorption of vitamin B12, which is very common with celiac disease. Taking liquid B12 is one of the best ways to counteract this and help with healing. It is a very inexpensive treatment.

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    Guest Elizabeth

    Posted

    As a child, my pediatrician diagnosed me with glossitis. However, I went YEARS without knowing I had celiac disease, suffering from various illnesses. It has only been in the last 2 years that I have been healthy. I attribute this to my Gluten-free lifestyle. This info you have provided is so helpful and appreciated. Thanks for sharing this valuable information!

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    Guest Betty J. Owen

    Posted

    Note: This is the first article that I have seen on this subject. After much concern regarding this condition and the potential harmfulness of it I now learn that having celiac disease has fostered yet one more site of discomfort. Thank you sincerely for these published findings. It is a true blessing to us who struggle with celiac disease.

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    Guest Rachael

    Posted

    I have had geographic tongue as long as I can remember and have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This article was so helpful, I went to get tested for celiac today. It seems consistent with many of my symptoms. Thank you.

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    Guest Rachel

    Posted

    I have had geographic tongue as long as I can remember and have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This article was so helpful, I went to get tested for celiac today. It seems consistent with many of my symptoms. Thank you.

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    Guest vivienne harris

    Posted

    I always wondered about my tongue. I just learned something new. Thank you.

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    Guest Soeren Rasmussen

    Posted

    I've been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis some years ago and I've had geographic tongue for several years. My daughter has celiac disease but I've not checked her for geographic tongue. Wonder if there are a connection between autoimmune diseases as f.ex. multiple sclerosis, geographic tongue and celiac disease. It could be a very interesting research subject.

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    I liked the article its very interesting and informative. Keep up the great work.

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  • About Me

    As co-author of "Dangerous Grains" and "Cereal Killers", the study of the impact of gluten continues to be a driving passion in my life. I am fascinated by the way that gluten induces illness and impedes learning while it alters mood, behavior, and a host of other facets of our existence. Sure, the impact of gluten on health is an important issue, but that is only the most obvious area of impact. Mood disturbances, learning disabilities, and the loss of quality of life due to psychiatric and neurological illness are even more tragic than the plethora of physical ailments that are caused or worsened by gluten. The further I go down this rabbit hole, the more I realize that grains are a good food for ruminants - not people. I am a retired school teacher. Over the last decade, I have done some college and university level teaching, but the bulk of my teaching career was spent working with high school students. My Web page is: www.DangerousGrains.com

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