Leukoplakia or White Tongue

Mouth | Odontologie | Leukoplakia or White Tongue (Symptom)


Oral leukoplakia (OL) is a white patch or plaque that cannot be rubbed off, cannot be characterized clinically or histologically as any other condition, and is not associated with any physical or chemical causative agent except tobacco. Therefore, a process of exclusion establishes the diagnosis of the disease.

In general, the term leukoplakia implies only the clinical feature of a persistent, adherent white plaque. The term carries absolutely no histologic connotation, although, inevitably, some form of disturbance of the surface epithelium is characteristic.


The cause of leukoplakia is unknown, but tobacco, whether smoked, dipped or chewed, is considered to be the main culprit in its development.

Leukoplakia is usually not dangerous, but it can sometimes be serious. Although most leukoplakia patches are benign, a small percentage show early signs of cancer, and many cancers of the mouth occur next to areas of leukoplakia. For that reason, it is best to see the dentist if changes in the mouth are unusual and persistent.

Leukoplakia can have various appearances. Changes usually occur on the gums, the insides of the cheeks, the bottom of the mouth and, sometimes, the tongue. Leukoplakia may appear as white or greyish patches that cant be wiped away, irregular or flat-textured areas, thickened or hardened areas, raised, red lesions (erythroplakia), which are more likely to show precancerous changes

A type of leukoplakia called hairy leukoplakia primarily affects people whose immune systems have been weakened by medications or disease, especially HIV/AIDS. Hairy leukoplakia causes fuzzy, white patches that resemble folds or ridges on the sides of your tongue. Its often mistaken for oral thrush - an infection marked by creamy white patches on the area that extends from the back of your throat to the top of your esophagus (pharynx) and the insides of the cheeks. Oral thrush also is common in people with HIV/AIDS.

Leukoplakia usually does not cause permanent damage to tissues in the mouth. However, oral cancer is a potentially serious complication of leukoplakia. Oral cancers often form near leukoplakia patches, and the patches themselves may show cancerous changes. Even after leukoplakia patches are removed, the risk of oral cancer remains elevated.


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