Leukoplakia is described as thick white patch on mucus membrane of mouth especially on gums, inside of cheeks, upper palate and even on tongue. These patches adhere on mucus membrane and cannot be easily scrapped off. Leukoplakia is considered to be a precancerous condition unless otherwise proved negative after biopsy of the lesion.
Leukoplakia can also occur on female genitals, the cause here remains unknown. It usually develops in older people. Hairy leukoplakia is another form of this condition which is often found in people suffering from HIV infection. Although most cases of leukoplakia turn out to be benign, person having this must always consult his physician as in small percentage of people this can turn out to be a sign of oral cancer.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Leukoplakia
The exact cause of leukoplakia is still not yet known. But researchers believe constant irritation in mouth may play a major role in development of these adherent white patches.
There is no single cause established that may trigger white patches. Number of factors that cause damage to the mucus lining of oral cavity can influence for development of leukoplakia. These factors are:
- Smoking and tobacco chewing.
- Conditions that reduces immunity such as HIV infection, chemotherapy.
- Frequent burning of oral mucosa due to drinking hot coffee, tea and hot food.
- Infection of HPV virus. The virus that also causes cervical cancer in women.
- Jagged or rough surface of teeth that frequently lead to trauma in the inner side of cheek.
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Frequent biting of cheek and tongue due to rough uneven teeth.
- Improperly fitted dentures.
- Conditions that cause frequent oral ulcers.
- Excessive use of alcohol.
Symptoms Of Leukoplakia
Leukoplakia causes white patches in oral cavity. These patches are thick and difficult to remove. They usually develop on side of tongue, inside of cheek, on gums, upper palate and bottom of mouth. In females the lesions are also observed in the genital area.
The lesions are slightly raised and have leathery feel. The white patches are not painful. However, sometimes eating spicy food or drinking hot liquid and food can cause irritation and mild pain. Leukoplakia can increase risk of oral cancer.
Diagnosis And Treatment Of Leukoplakia
Leukoplakia is usually diagnosed during oral examination either by family doctor or a dentist. Often the condition is confused with oral thrush, a similar condition caused due to yeast infection. However, the white or grey patches of thrush are soft and thin. They can be easily scraped from the base.
When thrush is scraped it bleeds which is uncommon in leukoplakia patches. If the patches appear suspicious the doctor may advice for a biopsy to look out for oral cancer.
Most patches of leukoplakia heal without any specific treatment. However, the trigger must be completely avoided. For example, patient must stop smoking or chewing tobacco. If the condition is because of dental problem or improper fitting dentures, he must consult his dentist. Person must stop drinking alcohol and avoid all types of irritants.
If the biopsy material turns out to be cancerous, then the patch is removed completely either with scalpel or laser therapy. In case of large patch, surgical removal may be necessary. Patient must take vitamin supplements. His diet must also consist of foods that are high in vitamin.
Person must include foods that are rich source of vitamin A, C, E and B complex. Vegetables such as pumpkin, carrot, spinach, nuts and seeds, lemon, grapes, oranges, etc are good source of these vitamins. Their antioxidant properties will help to reduce risk of cancer.