It is quite a common condition in the elderly, but it can typically appear at any age if the immune system makes such a reaction.
The lesions can be potentially dangerous, and they might represent the first sings of oral cancer. Dentists also call these white lesions precancerous lesions.
It is extremely important to pay attention to regular mouth checkup and oral cancer screenings, in order to catch any early sign or symptom of the invasive oral cancer. People with weak immune systems are the ones most likely to be exposed to the apparition of the leukoplakia lesions.
The main causes of oral leukoplakia may include:
- an exposure to constant irritation of the mucous membrane within the mouth. This can be chemical or mechanical irritation.
- Candida Albicans or the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are other possible viruses that can bring about oral leukoplakia lesions
- constant exposure to UV radiation
- lifelong habits such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking or chewing tobacco
How is leukoplakia diagnosed
The doctor will generally rule out the possibility of other types of lesions. If the doctor considers these might be malignant lesions, he might order a histopathological examination, which requires biopsy. A small part of the lesion will be removed and sent for laboratory exams.
What are the treatment options for leukoplakia lesions?
If the lesion is easily definable and can be easily delimited, the doctor might decide to remove it surgically. Of course, following surgical excision, the patient has to get periodic checkups to make sure the entire potentially dangerous tissue has been removed and that there is no recurrence visible.
Another minimally invasive, non-painful leukoplakia removal option is cryosurgery. This is when the doctor basically freezes off the lesion with the use of liquid nitrogen. The procedure will usually not leave any scars, but healing time might take longer since the interior of the mouth is a constantly humid medium.
Laser surgery is also possible, but it is your doctor who is going to decide which treatment or excision method is the one mostly suitable in your case. For such lesions, doctors might also prescribe Retinoid content ointments (containing vitamin A), which stimulate cell growth and aid healing of the tissue.
After treatment, periodic checkups for at least up to 3 years are recommended, because the lesions have a recurring tendency.