Leukoplakia: Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Leukoplakia: Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis 



What is leukoplakia


Leukoplakia is a condition in which thick, white patches form on your tongue and the lining of your mouth. Smoking is the most common cause. but other irritants can result in this condition as well.

slight leukoplakia is usually harmless and often goes away on its own. more serious cases may be linked to oral cancer. these must be treated promptly.

regular dental care can help prevent recurrences.

signs
What are the signs of leukoplakia?
Leukoplakia is marked via uncommon-looking patches inside your mouth. these patches can range in appearance and may have the following features:

white or gray color
thick, hard, raised surface
bushy (hairy leukoplakia handiest)
red spots (rare)
Redness may be a signal of cancer. See your doctor right away if you have patches with red spots.

Leukoplakia most often occurs on your tongue. it can also appear inside your cheeks and on your gums. The patches may take several weeks to develop, and they’re rarely painful.

some women may develop leukoplakia on the outside of their genitals in the vulva area.

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causes
What are the causes of leukoplakia?
the exact cause of leukoplakia is unknown. It’s primarily linked to tobacco use. Smoking is the most common cause. however chewing tobacco can also cause leukoplakia.

other causes include:

injury to the inside of your cheek, such as from biting
rough, uneven teeth
dentures, especially if improperly fitted
inflammatory conditions of the body
research suggests there may be a link between leukoplakia and the human papilloma virus.

hairy leukoplakia
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the main cause of hairy leukoplakia. once you get this virus, it remains in your body completely. EBV is generally dormant. however, it may cause hairy leukoplakia patches to develop at any time. Outbreaks are more common in people with HIV or other immune problems.

diagnosis
How is leukoplakia 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. you might mistake the condition for oral thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth. The patches it causes are usually softer than leukoplakia patches. they may bleed more easily.

Your dentist or doctor may need to do other tests to confirm the cause of your spots. This helps them suggest a treatment that may prevent future patches from developing.

If a patch seems suspicious, your dentist or physician will do a biopsy. To do a biopsy, they remove a small piece of tissue from one or more of your spots. They then send that tissue sample to a pathologist for diagnosis. The goal is to look for signs and symptoms of oral cancer.

treatment
What are the treatment options for leukoplakia?
most patches improve on their own and don’t require any treatment. It’s important to avoid any trigger that may have caused your leukoplakia, such as tobacco use. If it’s related to irritation from a dental problem, your dentist may be able to deal with this.

If a biopsy comes back positive for oral cancer, the patch should be eliminated immediately. this can help prevent the spread of the cancer.

Small patches can be removed by a more extensive biopsy using laser therapy or a scalpel. large leukoplakia patches require oral surgery.

hairy leukoplakia won't require removal. Your dentist or doctor might prescribe antiviral medications to assist stop the patches from growing. Topical ointments containing retinoic acid can also be used to reduce patch size.

PREVENTION
How can leukoplakia be prevented?

Many cases of leukoplakia can be prevented with lifestyle changes:
Stop smoking or chewing tobacco.
Reduce alcohol use.
Eat antioxidant-rich foods such as spinach and carrots. Antioxidants may help deactivate irritants that cause patches.

Contact your dentist or doctor immediately if you suspect leukoplakia. This can help keep the patches from getting worse.

Follow-up appointments are crucial. Once you develop leukoplakia, you have an increased risk of developing it again in the future.

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