What is Oral Hairy Leukoplakia? Its Sign & Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention, Prognosis and Treatment
Oral Hairy Leukoplakia is a white patch that can occur inside your mouth which may be on your gums, any part of tongue, or insides of cheek. It appears as furry white patch with wavy edges which cannot be removed by rubbing or scrapping. It is caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and the virus stays in the body through their life but in an inactive form. It gets lively
in people with weak immunity due to certain immunocompromised conditions like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or low immunity due to use of steroids. Most leukoplakias do not transform to serious conditions like cancer, but they may be linked with an underlying condition like HIV.
It occurs mainly in adult males and rarely in females or children. Oral Hairy Leukoplakia acquires its white appearance when there is excessive production of keratin (Hyperkeratosis) caused by Epstein-Barr Virus. It arises when there is a fall in the number of CD4 cells which are present on the surface of immunity cells. Oral Hairy leukoplakia can be a warning sign of HIV and indicates the advancement of HIV to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
What are the Signs and Symptoms associated with Oral Hairy Leukoplakia?
There are no indicators present as such, but white patches are the primary signs of Oral hairy leukoplakia which appear as
- White patch with crimped edges and bushy in appearance.
- Hair-like extensions come out of these patches giving “Hairy” look.
- These patches are permanent.
- Sometimes cause uneasiness and alteration in taste.
How do we Diagnose this condition?
Your dentist or physician can easily identify Oral Hairy Leukoplakia by physical examination alone. It can be confused with a condition called Oral Thrush but unlike Thrush, Hairy Leukoplakia can not be removed. So additional tests or reports are not required in this case. However, with immunocompromised patients sometimes a biopsy is taken.
What are the possible ways to prevent this condition?
It is not possible to prevent Epstein-Barr virus infection which lead to Hairy Leukoplakia, however you can always stay safe from HIV infections which makes the immunity weak.
- Maintain good oral hygiene
- Practice safe sex
- Maintain good lifestyle with healthy diet and exercise
- Avoid smoking or contact with tobacco all together
- Focus on building immunity
How about the Prognosis of Oral Hairy Leukoplakia?
Oral hairy leukoplakia, in itself, is usually self-limiting and does not lead to any serious cancerous condition hence prognosis is good. Nevertheless, when linked with a condition like HIV, the prognosis is bad.
How do we treat this condition?
Treatment is not necessary since this condition is not threatening. Although the patients might have a concern about the look of the patch which can be treated by anti-viral drugs like acyclovir or deciclovir, but it usually comes back when the treatment is stopped. The underlying immunocompromised condition should be treated in order to experience relief with Oral Hairy Leukoplakia. Topical application of podophyllum resin or retinoids also helps in producing temporary reduction of the condition.