4 Issues that Can Cause Leucoplakia Patches

Leucoplakia are white lesions that can occur within the mouth, usually under the tongue, along the sides of the tongue or along the insides of the cheeks. Varying in colour between pale white and grey, leucoplakia patches may feel slightly raised. Though painless, they are sensitive to hot or cold food and drink.

Most of the time, leucoplakia patches are harmless, but they can turn cancerous. Additionally, they can act as warning signs of other conditions. Here are just four issues that can cause leucoplakia to develop.

1. Tobacco Use

All types of tobacco use are thought to increase your chances of developing leucoplakia, but chewing tobacco is often thought of as the most common tobacco-related cause. This is because people who chew tend to hold the tobacco against a certain cheek or under the tongue, subjecting that specific area to at least 28 chemicals known to cause oral cancer. If you do use tobacco, having your leucoplakia checked quickly becomes even more important since tobacco usage is one of the most common causes of oral cancer.

2. Heavy Drinking

As with smoking, excessive alcohol consumption causes many more serious issues than leucoplakia, but that doesn't mean that alcohol-related leucoplakia is not cause for concern. Evidence has indicated that heavy drinkers are eight times more likely to develop leucoplakia than non-drinkers, and binge drinking may also serve to increase your risk of oral cancer.

3. Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)/HIV and AIDS

The Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is a type of herpes that can cause the development of "hairy leucoplakia". Not actually hairy, these leucoplakia will feel harder and develop a rough crust across the surface. People generally only develop EBV if their immune systems become compromised, so people with HIV or AIDS are more likely to develop hairy leucoplakia. In fact, the appearance of hairy leucoplakia can indicate that their treatment methods are beginning to fail.

4. Frictional Keratosis

Frictional keratosis simply means that something hard has been rubbing against your cheek or tongue; over a prolonged period, this can result in the development of leucoplakia patches. Rough teeth, misaligned teeth, poorly-fit dentures and rough fillings can all be to blame.

If you do develop leucoplakia patches, you should see a dentist as soon as possible. They will be able to take a small tissue sample from the area and carry out a biopsy to check for any signs of oral cancer.