Leukoplakia is a condition that can lead to growth of thick and white patches on your gums, bottom of the mouth, on the tongue, and inside of the cheek.
Leukoplakia causes are still unknown, but usage of tobacco, mainly chewing tobacco is a significant risk factor. Heavy alcohol consumption can also lead to leukoplakia.
Researchers showed that 1 in every 100 people show symptoms of leukoplakia at some point in their life. But, leukoplakia development is high in countries where chewing of tobacco and related products is widely prevalent.
Usually, men are at 5 times higher risk of developing leukoplakia than women. Adults above 40 years of age are also at high risk.
Generally, symptoms of leukoplakia won’t show up and also it won’t interfere with your quality of life. But, in some cases, the thick and white patches caused by leukoplakia become cancerous and many cancers of the mouth occur next to the areas of leukoplakia.
Leukoplakia manifests in various forms. You will observe changes on your gums, inside of the cheeks, bottom of the mouth, and sometimes on the tongue. Some of the symptoms of leukoplakia include:
- White or gray patches that can’t be wiped away
- Uneven or flat texture
- Hardened or thickened areas
1% of the people affected with leukoplakia can have the risk of mouth cancer. But, the risk is much higher in individuals with leukoplakia who continue smoking and chewing tobacco. The effective way to prevent leukoplakia, which leads to oral cancer, is to avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
Sometimes, you will also notice red lesions which can show precancerous changes. Hairy leukoplakia is another kind of leukoplakia, which mainly affects people who have weak immune system because of the usage of medications or diseases like HIV/AIDS. It causes fuzzy or white patches that signify creases or folds on the sides of tongue.
Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption to cure the condition of leukoplakia. If you don’t observe any improvement, visit a doctor, who then uses a blade, laser, or highly cold probe to destroy the cancerous cells.
Beta carotene, an oxidant translated into vitamin A after absorption, can entirely or partly decrease leukoplakic patches. Also, retinoids, which are the derivatives of vitamin A can be used to treat leukoplakia.
You can treat hairy leukoplakia with systemic or tropical medications. Systemic medications such as antiviral drugs including famciclovir and valacyclovir prevent reproduction of Epstein-Barr virus. These drugs can clear the plaque but the symptoms reoccur when you stop medication.
Tropical medications such as tretinoin and podophyllum resin solution can make the patches appear good, but, once you stop medication, they may return.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as they contain high amounts of antioxidants, which can reduce the development of leukoplakia. Antioxidant rich foods include oranges, carrots, cantaloupe, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, spinach and squash.