Leukoplakia is a condition where patches of keratosis appear as adherent white patches on the mucous membranes of the oral cavity, including the tongue, but also other areas of the gastro-intestinal tract, urinary tract and the genitals. The clinical appearance is highly variable. Leukoplakia is not a specific disease entity, but is diagnosis of exclusion. It must be distinguished from diseases that may cause similar white lesions, such ascandidiasis or lichen planus. The lesions of leukoplakia cannot be scraped off easily.
It is sometimes described as precancerous. It is also associated with smoking. Tobacco, either smoked or chewed, is considered to be the main culprit in its development.
The term "candidal leukoplakia" is sometimes used to describe certain types of oral candidiasis.
Leukoplakia is a whitish patch or plaque that cannot be characterized clinically or pathologically as any other disease, and is not associated with any physical or chemical causative agent, except the use of tobacco.
A more recent WHO workshop recommended abandoning the distinction between the terms "potentially malignant lesions" and "potentially malignant conditions" and to use the term "potentially malignant disorders" instead. Leukoplakia and erythroplakia are the most common potentially malignant disorders. These diagnoses are still defined by exclusion of other known white or red lesions.
Oral white lesions include leukoplakias (as defined above), keratoses, leukoplakias of clear infective origin (candidal, syphilitic, hairy leukoplakia associated with Epstein-Barr virus), candidosis, lichen planus, oral submucous fibrosis, lupus erythematosus, congenital lesions (eg, white sponge nevus, dyskeratosis congenita, pachyonychia congenita), and frank carcinomas.
Sores usually develop on the tongue, but they may also appear on the insides of the cheek, or on the outer female genitals. The most common symptoms of hairy leukoplakia are painless, fuzzy white patches on the side of the tongue.
The sores are:
The goal of treatment is to get rid of the lesion. Removing the source of irritation is important and may cause the lesion to disappear.
You may need surgery to remove lesion. The lesion is usually removed using local anesthesia.