Leukoplakia- causes, symptoms, treatments, preventions and more

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What is leukoplakia?

Leukoplakia is a condition that causes white spots or patches in the mouth. These spots can be seen in the oral cavity.

These plaques will not go away on their own and will require medical treatment. These plaques will be thick, and patches can be seen in gums, inside the cheeks, at the bottom of the mouth and on the tongue.

Most occurrences of leukoplakia are noncancerous, but some can show symptoms of cancer. In most cases, they do not cause any severe symptoms, but they can lead to severe.


Types of leukoplakia

The types of leukoplakia are discussed below.

Homogeneous leukoplakia

Homogeneous leukoplakia forms uniform white plaques and appear as flat white lesions. These white plaques can appear as wrinkles. According to NCBI, homogeneous leukoplakia is less likely to become malignant. This type of leukoplakia is asymptomatic in nature.

Non-homogeneous leukoplakia

Non-homogeneous leukoplakia will have a resemblance of both red and white patches, which are mostly irregular in texture. According to NCBI, non-homogeneous leukoplakia has an increased risk of becoming malignant.

Proliferative verrucous leukoplakia

Proliferative verrucous leukoplakia is a variant of non-homogeneous leukoplakia. This type of leukoplakia is rare, but it can cause severe symptoms. It is considered the most aggressive form of leukoplakia.

In most cases, these leukoplakia have the potential to become malignant. The diagnosis of proliferative verrucous leukoplakia usually delays as it takes time to spread. Additionally, they have a higher rate of recurrence.

Oral hairy leukoplakia

Oral hairy leukoplakia causes white patches on the tongue. It is usually triggered by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The white patches appear as hairy structures and are called as oral hairy leukoplakia.

In most cases, oral hairy leukoplakia affects people with a weak immune system. This condition is common in people with the HIV virus.

Oral hairy leukoplakia is commonly seen in the tongue, but it can occur in other parts of the mouth.

These hair-like structures cannot be removed. These patches cause discomfort and also alter the taste of food.

In most cases, oral hairy leukoplakia can be identified, but to confirm it, a proper diagnosis will be required.

Causes of leukoplakia

Leukoplakia is strongly associated with these conditions.

Excess smoking and tobacco use

The cause of leukoplakia is still unknown. However, excess smoking can increase the risk of leukoplakia. Tobacco can irritate sensitive areas in the mouth and lead to leukoplakia.

According to a research paper published in Nature journal, leukoplakia is caused due to smoking and chewing tobacco.

Heavy use of alcohol

According to NCBI, alcohol drinking increases the risk of leukoplakia. Additionally, overconsumption of alcohol can trigger the condition.

Symptoms of leukoplakia

The symptoms of leukoplakia start with white patches in the mouth. These white patches can be visible on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks.

These patches cannot be removed by scrapping or rubbing. These white patches will not be accompanied by pain, and in most cases, they will not be noticed.

According to NCBI, these symptoms are noticed.

  • Keratinisation of epithelial cells.
  • Acanthosis
  • Increased thickness

Risk factor of leukoplakia

The risk of leukoplakia increases for these criteria.

  • The female gender is affected the most.
  • Alcohol consumption can lead to leukoplakia
  • Smoking tobacco increases the risk.
  • A person affected with oral cancer can get affected with leukoplakia.
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Bruises caused due to toothbrushes can also develop as leukoplakia.

Other complications

Leukoplakia can cause damage to your tissues. However, these damages are not permanent.

Leukoplakia also increases the risk of oral cancer. If leukoplakia is treated, oral cancer persists and separate treatment will be required.

Diagnosis of leukoplakia

The first step of leukoplakia diagnosis will be a physical examination. Usually, patients with leukoplakia will not exhibit any symptoms.

So, when a dentist examines your mouth, the presence of leukoplakia will be determined.


The tissue sample will be taken from the oral cavity and will be sent to the laboratory for further analysis.

The sample will be removed from the oral cavity, and it will be examined under a microscope. This diagnosis will confirm whether these white patches can become cancerous or not.

Treatment of leukoplakia

The primary aim of treatment will be to prevent the white patches from becoming cancerous. However, most leukoplakia patches can reoccur.


Medications can help control the growth of these white patches. Retinoids are usually recommended to reduce the lesions. These medications are usually administered orally.

Retinoids can help reduce the lesions. However, lesions can relapse, and side effects are also common.

Surgical process

Surgical procedures can help remove these white patches. The removal of the lesion can be done using

  • Laser method
  • Cryotherapy
  • Photodynamic therapy and
  • Electro cauterisation.

Cryotherapy uses extreme cold to freeze the cells and remove the abnormal cells. The cells will be frozen with the help of liquid nitrogen. This treatment is also called as cryoablation.

Photodynamic therapy uses photosensitisers to destroy these white patches. The medication can be administered orally or intravenously. Depending on the targeted area, the medication will kill these cells.

Prevention of leukoplakia

Leukoplakia can be prevented by following these techniques.

Avoid smoking

Leukoplakia can be prevented by avoiding all types of tobacco products. Additionally, these tobacco use can also lead to oral cancer.

Reduce alcohol

Overconsumption of alcohol can also cause leukoplakia. Alcohol can irritate the oral cavity’s smooth muscles, leading to leukoplakia.

Eat nutrition-rich food

According to NCBI, a diet deficient in vitamin C, fibre and other nutrients can increase the risk of leukoplakia. Consumption of foods like broccoli, carrots and other nutrient-rich foods can help prevent leukoplakia.

nutrition-rich food

When to see a doctor?

In most cases, leukoplakia is asymptomatic. They will not cause any discomfort and can be identified during regular visits to a dentist. Consult your doctor if you have these symptoms.

  • Sores or plaques that do not heal in a week’s time.
  • Patches and lumps in the mouth.
  • Changes in tissues of the mouth.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.


Leukoplakia is a condition that causes white patches in the oral cavity. Leukoplakia has the ability to get transformed into oral cancer. When leukoplakia has been treated, oral cancer should be treated differently.

White patches can be removed with medication or surgery. However, follow-ups should be done every six to twelve months. There is a high probability of leukoplakia recurrence. It will require treatment if leukoplakia reoccurs.


What are the symptoms of leukoplakia?

The common symptoms of leukoplakia include.
1. White or grey patches in the oral cavity.
2. Hardened or thickened areas inside the mouth.
3. Red lesions that appear precancerous.
4. Ulcers inside the mouth.
5. Bleeding.

What food is good for leukoplakia?

Foods like carrots, broccoli and other foods rich in fibre and vitamins can be consumed. Additionally, a deficiency in dietary levels of vitamin C, A and fibre increases the risk of leukoplakia.

What is the best treatment for leukoplakia?

The best treatment for leukoplakia is to remove the white patches. The removal of white patches should be carried out by a doctor.

Is vitamin C good for leukoplakia?

Yes, vitamin C is good for leukoplakia.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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