February 8, 2017

Leukoplakia is a white or gray-white patch in the mouth that cannot be wiped off. The patches usually develop slowly, over weeks or months. They are rarely cancerous. A test called biopsy may be done to determine if they are cancerous or not. A biopsy involves removing a small section of the patch so it can be examined in a lab. If the patch is small, all of it is removed.

Leukoplakia is more common in people exposed to –

  • Chewing tobacco
  • Cigarette, cigar or pipe smoke
  • Sun on the lips
  • A mouthwash or toothpaste that contains sanguinarine

Leukoplakia is often seen on the lip or inside the cheeks or gums. Patches vary in size. Leukoplakia is usually benign (not cancer). On average, 4% to 5% of these patches develop into oral cancer. Patches in some areas of the mouth are more likely to be cancer –

  • On the tongue
  • On the lip
  • Under the tongue, on the “floor” of the mouth

People infected with HIV sometimes have a condition called oral hairy leukoplakia. It consists of hairy, painless white patches. Usually the patches are on the sides of the tongue. They can be one of the first signs of HIV infection

Leukoplakia usually isn’t dangerous, but it can sometimes be serious. Although most leukoplakia patches are noncancerous (benign), some show early signs of cancer. Many cancers on the floor of the mouth — beneath the tongue — occur next to areas of leukoplakia.


Leukoplakia affects the mucus membranes of the mouth. The exact cause is not known. Doctors think it may be due to irritation such as –

  • Rough teeth
  • Rough places on dentures, fillings, and crowns
  • Smoking or other tobacco use (smoker’s keratosis), especially pipes
  • Holding chewing tobacco or snuff in the mouth for a long period of time
  • Drinking a lot of alcohol
  • The disorder is most common in elderly persons.

A type of leukoplakia of the mouth called hairy leukoplakia is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is seen mostly in persons with HIV/AIDS. It may be one of the first signs of HIV infection. Hairy leukoplakia can also appear in other people whose immune system is not working well, such as after a bone marrow transplant.


Leukoplakia causes patches on the tongue, gums, or inside of the cheeks. These patches may appear as –

  • White, gray, or red in color
  • Thick, slightly raised, or hardened on the surface
  • There may be pain or signs of infection. The patches may also be sensitive to touch, heat, or spicy foods.

In some cases, leukoplakia looks like oral thrush, which is an infection also associated with HIV infection and suppressed immune function.

Untreated leukoplakia can turn into cancer. Some types of leukoplakia carry a higher risk of turning into cancer than others.


If the patches do not fade as expected, the doctor may advise:

  • Topical medications or solutions that are applied to the patches
  • Medicated mouthwashes
  • Oral medications, such as retinoids, vitamin A, beta carotene, or lycopene
  • Antiviral medications—if the leukoplakia is due to viral infection (more common in people with suppressed immune function)
  • Treat dental causes such as rough teeth, irregular denture surface, or fillings as soon as possible.
  • Stop smoking or using other tobacco products.
  • Do not drink alcohol.

Removal of leukoplakic patches – Patches may be removed using a scalpel, a laser or an extremely cold probe that freezes and destroys cancer cells (cryoprobe).


  • Avoiding all tobacco products – This is one of the best steps you can take for your overall health, as well as being one of the main ways to prevent leukoplakia. Talk to your doctor about methods to help you quit. If friends or family members continue to smoke or chew tobacco, encourage them to have frequent dental checkups. Oral cancers are usually painless until fairly advanced.
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol use – Alcohol is a factor in both leukoplakia and oral cancer. Combining alcohol and smoking may make it easier for the harmful chemicals in tobacco to penetrate the tissues in your mouth.
  • Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables – These are rich in antioxidants such as beta carotene, which reduce the risk of leukoplakia by deactivating harmful oxygen molecules before they can damage tissues. Foods rich in beta carotene include dark yellow, orange, and green fruits and vegetables, including carrots, pumpkin, squash, cantaloupe and spinach.

If removing the source of the irritation does not work, the doctor may suggest applying medicine to the patch or using surgery to remove it.

Alternative Treatment

Vitamin A is very useful in the treatment of leukoplakia. Vitamin A can help improve general health and immunity of your body. It is very effective in treating leukoplakia and preventing remissions. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and used in ointments to treat leukoplakia topically.

Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant and helps protect cell membranes from any harm due to free radicals. It is very beneficial in the treatment of leukoplakia and is recommended to be taken along with vitamin A to get its best health benefit.

Vitamin C is widely prescribed for the treatment of leukoplakia. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps to keep the body cells healthy. It also helps in the regeneration of new skin cells.

Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in production of new red blood cells and is also useful in strengthening the immune system. It is indicated for people suffering from leukoplakia as it has been observed that people with vitamin B6 deficiency are more likely to develop this condition.

Vitamin B9 – Also known as folic acid, this vitamin is very useful in the treatment of leukoplakia. It plays an important role in the synthesis of nucleic acid and helps to repair the DNA and RNA.

Beta-carotene – this compound has been the universal treatment supplement in all patients. he efficacy of the compound and its ability to deal with leukoplakia.


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Posted in IMMUNITY