What is Erythroplakia?
Erythroplakia is an appearance of the abnormal red lesion in the mucous membrane of the mouth. These lesions are most commonly seen on the tongue or the floor of the mouth. Often erythroplakia lesions are found alongside the leukoplakia lesions which are similarly patched with the difference of color. Leukoplakia lesions are white instead of red lesions of erythroplakia.
Erythroplakia and leukoplakia lesions are generally considered precancerous lesions.(1)
Causes Of Erythroplakia
Smoking and chewing tobacco are the most common causes of erythroplakia lesions.
Also, constantly rubbing of ill-fitting dentures along the gum and other tissues of the mouth can also lead to erythroplakia.
Is Erythroplakia Cancerous?
A biopsy is taken to determine whether the erythroplakia is cancerous.
The sample is examined by a pathologist. They look for dysplasia, a characteristic of cells that indicate a higher risk of cancer development.
There are high chances of erythroplakia lesions showing signs of precancerous cells and there are high chances that these precancerous cells may turn cancerous.(2)
Erythroplakia is not always cancerous, but the chances of them developing into cancer increase if the cells show dysplasia.
Detection and Diagnosis Of Erythroplakia
Erythroplakia can go undetected or undiagnosed as often there is no pain or another symptom.
Such cases are detected during a dental check-up. If a dentist suspects erythroplakia he closely examines the lesion by using gauze, instruments, and palpation.
History of the lesion is taken to rule out the other causes such as trauma.
If a lesion bleeds easily there are high chances of it being erythroplakia.
Treatment of Erythroplakia
A biopsy is taken of an identified erythroplakia lesion and the pathologist examines the tissue sample.
The biopsy findings, location, and size of the lesion help in determining the treatment.
The doctor might go ahead with the following:
- Observation with frequent follow-ups
- Laser surgery
- Radiation therapy
Due to the high malignancy potential of these lesions often surgical excision or laser surgery is recommended. However, even after surgical excision, there are chances of development of malignancy at the same site.(5,6)
There are certain other conditions which are similar to erythroplakia such as:
- Erosive lichen planus
- Acute atrophic candidiasis
- Lupus erythematosus
- Nonhomogeneous leukoplakia
- Denture induced stomatitis
- Invasive oral cancer
Erythroplakia is an uncommon condition that leads to the development of red lesions in the mouth. The treatment plan includes lifestyle change that can prevent the condition to aggravate or come back.