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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Overview



What is leukoplakia?

How might leukoplakia be treated?


What is leukoplakia?

Leukoplakia is a condition in which thickened, white patches form on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheek, or sometimes on the outer female genitals.[1][2] Although the sores can vary in appearance, they are usually white or gray; thick; and slightly raised with a hard surface.[2] The condition is thought to be caused by irritation, but the cause is not always known.[2] Tobacco is considered to be the main cause of its development in the mouth. Most patches are benign, but a small percentage show early signs of cancer.[1] Removing the source of irritation may cause the condition to go away, but surgery to remove the sore(s) may be necessary in some cases.[2]
Last updated: 5/21/2012

How might leukoplakia be treated?

For most people, removing the source of irritation is important and often causes the lesion to disappear.[2] For example, if tobacco use is thought to be the cause, stopping tobacco use usually clears the condition.[1] Dental causes such as rough teeth or fillings should be treated as soon as possible.[2] When this is not effective or if the lesions show early signs of cancer, treatment may include removing the patches.[1] The lesion is usually removed in the health care provider's office using local anesthesia. Leukoplakia on the vulva is treated in the same way as oral lesions.[2] Recurrences are common, so follow-up visits with a physician are recommended.[1]
Last updated: 5/21/2012

References
  1. Leukoplakia. Mayo Clinic. November 2, 2010; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/leukoplakia/DS00458. Accessed 5/21/2012.
  2. Leukoplakia. MedlinePlus. July 20, 2011; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001046.htm. Accessed 5/21/2012.