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ICD-10 K13.2, N48.0, N88.0, N89.4, N90.4
ICD-9 478.5, 528.6, 530.83, 607.0, 622.2, 623.1, 624.0
DiseasesDB 7438
MedlinePlus 001046
MeSH C04.834.512

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Kiran Singh, M.D. [2]


Leukoplakia is a condition of the mouth that involves the formation of white leathery spots on the mucous membranes of the tongue and inside of the mouth. It is not a specific disease entity and is diagnosed by exclusion of diseases that may cause similar white lesions like candidiasis or lichen planus.

Epidemiology and Demographics

Leukoplakia affects less than one percent of the population, and is most common in adults within the 50-70 years age group.


Common Causes

The cause in most cases is unknown, but many are related to tobacco use and chronic irritation. Bloodroot, otherwise known as sanguinaria, is also believed to be associated with causing leukoplakia.[1] A small proportion of cases, particularly those involving the floor of the mouth or the undersurface of the tongue is associated with a risk of cancer.

The so-called hairy leukoplakia associated with HIV infection and other diseases of severe immune deficiency does not have risks for cancer.

Physical Examination

Ear Nose and Throat

Vulvar leukoplakia


The treatment of leukoplakia mainly involves avoidance of predisposing factors like smoking, tobacco and betel chewing, alcohol,and removal of chronic irritants like sharp edges of teeth. In suspicious cases, a biopsy is also taken, and surgical excision done if pre-cancerous changes or frank cancer is detected.


  1. Leukoplakia, (pdf format) hosted by the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. Page accessed on December 19, 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Dermatology Atlas". 

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