Leukoplakia, An Oral Disease

Leukoplakia, An Oral Disease

What is leukoplakia?

The leukoplakia is a white injury manifested in any region of the mouth. It manifests with white spots or plaques, which appear on the tongue or mucous membranes of the mouth, which does not come off and cannot be attributed clinically or pathologically to any other disease. It is considered as a premalignant lesion, that is to say that where these spots appear the appearance of cancer is more frequent than where there are no these mucosal alterations. 


Leukoplakia is at risk of malignancy, although it does not always occur. Causes of leukoplakia: the causes of leukoplakia are of unknown etiology, but there are external factors attributed to its development such as:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Inadequate feeding with vitamin deficiencies.
  • Repeated trauma (nibbling parts of the mouth).
  • Bad oral hygiene.
  • Irritative factors, poorly adjusted dentures.
  • Infectious diseases: Candida, syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV.
  • Idiopathic

It is more common in men, although in recent years this disease has been increasing in women, generally above 40 years, as a result of increased smoking.

What symptoms and signs does leukoplakia present?

It can cause pain and discomfort in the tongue or mouth. Leukoplakia is an alteration that evolves from a barely noticeable whitish spot, to the lesion that alternates white areas with red, cracked or ulcerated areas, and that begin to cause hardening of the affected region. The diagnosis of this lesion is clinical, but sometimes through the clinic it is difficult to know the benign or malignant nature of an injury. To establish the diagnosis of certainty, a biopsy is required. With the results of the biopsy, you will indicate if there have been changes that indicate if there has been a malignization of the lesion, and therefore if we suffer from oral cancer.

Treatment of leukoplakia:

The treatment of leukoplakia will depend on the stage of the lesion. Initially the specialist doctor will try to identify the triggering cause to indicate its elimination. The elimination of risk factors implies a recurrence in up to 50% of injuries. Sometimes it can be secondary to a candida infection, which would mask the clinical picture. In this case, we would treat candida infection with topical or systemic antinfungics and the lesion would be reexamined at two weeks. If after the removal of the trigger source the lesion persists, the doctor may suggest the application of a medication in the patch or the use of surgery to remove it, the removal of the lesion can be carried out with conventional surgery, cryosurgery or with carbon dioxide laser (CO 2 ).

We have other treatments such as the application of retinoic acid: retinoic acid, vitamin A and other synthetic retinoids, photodynamic therapy consisting in the administration of a photosensitizing agent so that radiation acts only on altered tissues; or antioxidant treatment that may be appropriate in cases of extensive leukoplakias or in patients with systemic disorders that involve a high surgical risk. The prognosis is better as soon as it is diagnosed, since it is thus possible to avoid the risk of malignancy. One of the recommendations given to patients suffering from this disease is that they stop smoking or using other tobacco products, do not consume alcohol or reduce the amount of alcohol and tobacco and have their dentures repaired as soon as possible.