It is a condition in which white and thick patches are formed on the tongue and the lining of the mouth. Smoking is the most common cause.
But other irritants can result in this condition too. It is also known as Leukoplakia.
Mild leukoplakia is usually harmless and often goes away on its own. The most serious cases may be related to oral cancer. These should be treated promptly.
Regular dental care can help prevent recurrences.
What are the symptoms?
Leukoplakia is marked by patches of unusual appearance inside the mouth. These patches may vary in appearance and may have the following characteristics:
- White or gray color.
- Thick, hard and high surface.
- Hairy texture (leper’s only leukoplakia).
- Red spots (not very common).
Redness can be a sign of cancer. Consult your doctor immediately if you have patches with red spots.
Leukoplakia occurs most often in your tongue. It can also appear inside your cheeks and on your gums. The patches can take several weeks to develop, and are rarely painful.
Some women may develop leukoplakia on the outside of their genitals in the area of the vulva.
What are the causes of leukoplakia?
The exact cause of leukoplakia is unknown. It is mainly related to tobacco consumption. Smoking is the most frequent cause. But chewing tobacco can also cause leukoplakia.
Other causes include:
- Injury on the inside of the cheek, as from biting.
- Rough and irregular teeth.
- Dentures, especially if they are poorly adjusted.
- Inflammatory conditions of the body.
- The research suggests that there may be a link between leukoplakia and human papillomavirus .
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the main cause of hairy leukoplakia. Once you have this virus, it stays in your body permanently.
The Epstein-Barr virus is generally inactive. However, it can cause patches of hairy leukoplakia to develop at any time. Outbreaks are more common in people with HIV or other immune problems.
How is it diagnosed?
Leukoplakia is usually diagnosed with an oral examination. During a physical examination, your dentist or primary care doctor can confirm if the patches are leukoplakia. It can confuse the condition of oral thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth.
The patches it causes are generally milder than patches of leukoplakia. They can bleed more easily.
Your dentist or doctor may need to perform other tests to confirm the cause of your spots. This helps them suggest a treatment that can prevent the development of future patches.
If a patch looks suspicious, your dentist or doctor will do a biopsy. To do a biopsy, remove a small piece of tissue from one or more of your stitches. Next, they send that tissue sample to a pathologist for diagnosis. The goal is to look for signs of oral cancer.
What are the treatment options for leukoplakia?
Most patches improve on their own and do not require any treatment. It is important to avoid any trigger that may have caused your leukoplakia, such as tobacco use. If it is related to the irritation of a dental problem, your dentist can address this.
If a biopsy is positive for oral cancer, the patch should be removed immediately. This can help prevent the spread of cancer.
Small patches can be removed by a more extensive biopsy using laser therapy or a scalpel. Large patches of leukoplakia require oral surgery.
Hairy leukoplakia may not require removal. Your dentist or doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help stop the growth of the patches. Topical ointments containing retinoic acid can also be used to reduce the size of the patch.
How can it be prevented?
Many cases of leukoplakia can be prevented with changes in lifestyle:
- Stop smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants such as spinach and carrots. Antioxidants can help deactivate irritants that cause patches.
- Contact your dentist or doctor immediately if you suspect leukoplakia. This can help prevent patches from getting worse.
- Follow-up appointments are crucial. Once you develop leukoplakia, you have a greater risk of developing it again in the future.
What is the long-term perspective for leukoplakia or leukoplakia?
In most cases, leukoplakia is not life-threatening. The patches do not cause permanent damage to your mouth.
The lesions usually disappear on their own within a few weeks after the source of irritation is eliminated. However, if your patch is particularly painful or seems suspicious, your dentist may order tests to rule out:
- Oral cancer
A history of leukoplakia may increase your risk of oral cancer, so let your doctor know if you have noticed irregular patches in your mouth. Many of the risk factors for leukoplakia are also risk factors for oral cancer. Oral cancer can be formed along with leukoplakia.