What is Leukoplakia?
Leukoplakia is pathological condition in which there is formation of thick white patches on the tongue or the lining of the mouth. This is mostly seen in smokers, but apart from smoking other environmental irritants may also cause Leukoplakia. Mild form of Leukoplakia is generally a benign condition and does not cause any harm and goes away on its own, but more serious forms of Leukoplakia may be connected to oral cancer and need emergent medical attention. Leukoplakia is quite easily visible with appearance of whitish patches on the tongue and the lining of the mouth. In case of females, the genital areas may also develop Leukoplakia.
What Causes Leukoplakia?
What exactly causes Leukoplakia is still not known, but it is mostly seen in people who smoke or chew tobacco. Some of the other causes of Leukoplakia are any type of injury or trauma to the cheek region on the inside part like a biting injury. An individual with uneven teeth may also tend to develop Leukoplakia. Dentures which are not properly fitting might also result in an injury to the inside part of the cheek causing Leukoplakia. Certain inflammatory conditions in the body have also been seen to cause Leukoplakia. Some studies suggest that the HPV virus is some cases tends to cause Leukoplakia.
What are the Symptoms of Leukoplakia?
The main symptom of Leukoplakia is the presence of visible white patches on the tongue and the lining of the mouth. The characteristics to look for in cases of Leukoplakia are:
- Patches which are white or gray in color.
- The patches are thick and raised.
- In rare cases, there may be spots that are red in color along with the white patches. This red spots are a sign of oral cancer and the individual is recommended to see a physician immediately for treatment.
- There will be no pain associated with the patches.
How is Leukoplakia Diagnosed?
Leukoplakia sometimes may be misdiagnosed with oral thrush, which is a yeast infection which also causes white patches with the only difference being that the patches from oral thrush are much softer than the patches from Leukoplakia. The diagnosis of Leukoplakia hence starts with an oral examination to determine whether the patches are oral thrush or indeed Leukoplakia. If the physician suspects Leukoplakia then further tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis. A biopsy may also be done to rule out any malignancy arising out of Leukoplakia.
How is Leukoplakia Treated?
In majority of the cases, Leukoplakia goes away on its own and does not require any treatment, but it is important to identify the cause of Leukoplakia and staying away from it. If Leukoplakia has been caused by tobacco use then abstaining from tobacco use is the best way to treat Leukoplakia and prevent future recurrences of it. In case if it is caused due to a teeth problem or ill fitting dentures then going to a dentist may solve the issue and prevent further development of Leukoplakia. In case if malignancy is confirmed on biopsy then the patches need to be removed immediately so as to prevent spread of cancer. Small patches of Leukoplakia may be removed just with use of a scalpel, but larger patches require oral surgery for treatment of Leukoplakia.
How to Prevent Leukoplakia?
Leukoplakia is a condition that can be prevented easily by making certain lifestyle modifications like:
- Abstaining from any form of tobacco.
- Abstain from alcohol use.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants like spinach and carrots, as it deactivates irritants that cause Leukoplakia.
- Consult with a dentist for ill fitting dentures and correct it so as to prevent Leukoplakia.
- Leukoplakia has high chances of recurrences if the underlying cause is not eradicated and hence diligent followup with the physician is necessary in case if an individual has a confirmed diagnosis of Leukoplakia.