Case Reports

Red patches on the tongue with white borders • history of geographic tongue • incompletely treated celiac disease • Dx?

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Other oral and dental manifestations of celiac disease include enamel defects, delayed tooth eruption, recurrent aphthous ulcers, cheilosis, oral lichen planus, and atrophic glossitis.10 Our patient also reported anxiety, “foggy mind,” diffuse arthralgia, and abdominal pain, which are symptoms of uncontrolled celiac disease. There is no known etiology of tongue manifestations in patients with incompletely treated celiac disease.

Treatment. FT generally does not require specific therapy other than the treatment of the underlying inflammatory condition. It is important to maintain proper oral and dental care, such as brushing the top surface of the tongue to clean and remove food debris. Bacteria and plaque can collect in the fissures, leading to bad breath and an increased potential for tooth decay.

Our patient was referred to a dietitian to assist with adherence to the gluten-free diet. At follow-up 3 months later, the appearance of her tongue had improved and fewer fissures were visible. The majority of her other symptoms also had resolved.


FT may be a normal variant of the tongue in some patients or may be associated with poor oral hygiene. Additionally, FT often is associated with an underlying medical or inherited condition and may serve as a marker for an untreated or partially treated condition such as celiac disease, as was the case with our patient. When other signs or symptoms of systemic disease are present, further laboratory and endoscopic workup is necessary to rule out other causes and to diagnose celiac disease, if present.

As FT has been reported to be a natural progression from GT, the appearance of FT may indicate partial treatment of the underlying disease process and therefore more intensive therapy and follow-up would be needed. In this case, more intensive dietary guidance was provided with subsequent improvement of symptoms.

Peter J. Carek, MD, MS, Department of Community Health and Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Florida, P.O. Box 100237, Gainesville, FL 32610-0237;

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