Oral Leukoplakia • Causes • Symptoms • Treatments • Remedies
What is Oral Leukoplakia
Oral Leukoplakia is a condition in which thickened, white patches form on the gums, floor of the mouth, inner lining of the cheeks and sometimes on or under the tongue. These patches can't be scraped off easily.
People with compromised immune systems, sometimes develop an unusual form of the disorder called Oral Hairy Leukoplakia.
Oral leukoplakia is usually not painful. However, leukoplakia symptoms should not be ignored. The condition is considered to be mostly benign (non-cancerous), but in a small percentage of cases leukoplakia patches show early signs of cancer. While oral leukoplakia lesions rarely develop into cancer, many cancers of the mouth are found adjacent to areas of leukoplakia.
Causes of Leukoplakia
The actual mechanism of what causes leukoplakia is unknown. However there are certain factors that have been linked with the development of leukoplakia, most of them related with the mouth's reaction to chronic irritation of the mucous membranes. The possible causes of leukoplakia include :
Other conditions mentioned as potential causes of oral leukoplakia are :
Candida albicans, the fungus that causes oral thrush, is usually found in the leukoplakia patches. But it is not clear if its presence is the cause of leukoplakia or just a secondary effect of this condition.
Symptoms of Leukoplakia
Leukoplakia symptoms may appear at any age, but they are especially common in the elderly. More men than women develop oral leukoplakia with a male-to-female ratio of 2:1.
Initially oral leukoplakia symptoms appear as flat, gray or gray-white plaques on the gums, floor of the mouth, inside the cheeks and sometimes on or under the tongue. These sores, in a period of weeks or months, slowly develop into white patches with a thick, roughened or wrinkled texture and hardened surface. The white patches are not scraped off easily, like those in oral thrush, which helps to differentiate the two conditions.
Leukoplakia usually does not cause other symptoms. It is painless, but the patches in a few cases can become sensitive to touch, heat or spicy foods. If raised red lesions are present (erythroplakia), there is increased chance of a pre-cancerous condition.
Screening and diagnosis of oral leukoplakia
Oral Leukoplakia is normally diagnosed by examining the white patches in the mouth or the fuzzy manifestation of hairy leukoplakia on the tongue, after excluding other diseases that could cause similar symptoms, such as oral thrush.
Leukoplakia symptoms can be an early sign of oral cancer. To exclude this possibility, dentists remove a small tissue sample from the patch for analysis (biopsy). The sample will be examined for cancerous cells.
You should allways visit a dentist if you notice any sign of persistent abnormality in your mouth. Many diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and others cause symptoms of oral leukoplakia.
Oral Leukoplakia Treatment
Usually all that is needed for the treatment of oral leukoplakia is just to remove the source of the irritation.
Regardless of the selected leukoplakia treatment, your mouth should be clinically monitored periodically by your physician or dentist. Many cases of oral cancer develop in mouth areas adjacent to areas of leukoplakia or in sites previously treated for leukoplakia, and the patches themselves may show cancerous changes. Leukoplakia that contains pre-cancerous or cancerous cells on a biopsy should be removed by surgery. The prognosis will depend on the type and extent of the cancer.
Prevention of Oral Leukoplakia
Prevent leukoplakia by eliminating any irritating factors for the mouth. The following actions may help :
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