Leukoplakia is not contagious. Leukoplakia is white-gray patches that occur in the oral cavity, which cannot be rubbed off or identified as another clinical entity. These are usually harmless (benign) most of the time. But it has certain risk of transferring to an oral cavity cancer.
Let’s see the pathophysiology, what are the causes, symptoms and signs of oral leukoplakia. This will help you understand that it’s not a contagious disease.
The pathophysiology is unknown, but there is a theory on how leukoplakia may develop. When the cells are exposed to carcinogens the cells try to adapt to that environment by increasing the cell production. Similarly in the oral mucosa the increase cell production is seen by oral leukoplakia.
When the carcinogen exposure persists the cells get injured (cell degeneration), which is a well characterized feature of adaptation. When the stage of adaptation and revocable cell damage ends the cells comes to a stage of irrevocable damage. This stage manifests as a malignancy. The fast cell production that was present at the early stages facilitates further genetic damage of the cells and thereby pushing the cells further into malignant changes.
Leukoplakia is also seen in the female genital tract however the reason in unknown.
Causes of Leukoplakia
Leukoplakia occurs due to chronic irritation of the mucous membranes of the oral cavity.
- Tobacco chewing
- Rough or uneven teeth
- Unfitted dentures
- Injuries to the mucous membrane from biting
- Alcohol usage
Tobacco chewing and smoking are the most common causes out of this list. When the above mentioned irritations go on for a longer time oral leukoplakia can develop.
- Usually an asymptomatic condition
- Can be accidentally found in the oral cavity
- These lesions look bright white, with well define margins. The patches are slightly elevated from the normal mucous membrane.
- These lesions are commonly seen in the inner side of the cheeks and the tongue, floor of the mouth but it can occur at any place in the oral cavity.
Three Stages Of Oral Leukoplakia On Examination
- The earliest lesion is not palpable; it’s faintly white and slightly translucent.
- The next stage the patches are slightly elevated, diffuse and the margins are irregular. The lesion looks whiter and has a fine, granular texture.
- The last stage is where some lesions develop to be thickened, white lesions. It also has ulcers, nodules and fissures.
In conclusion oral leukoplakia is not a contagious disease. It does not spread by close contact with a person who has oral leukoplakia. The causes are mainly the chronic irritation the oral mucous membranes undergo by tobacco chewing, smoking, rough or uneven teeth, unfitted denture and alcohol consumption. Oral leukoplakia is quite common and most of the time it’s a benign condition. However there is a 20% of chance this lesion transferring into oral cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). Oral leukoplakia is most of the time asymptomatic so if you have any of the risk factors mentioned you need to be cautious. You need to consult a doctor and get a biopsy of the lesion and according to that the necessary treatment should be done. The best way to prevent cancer is stopping tobacco chewing and smoking.