Leukoplakia is marked by the formation of white or gray thickened patches on mucous membranes of cheeks, gums or tongue. The cause for Leukoplakia is still not known. However, it is mainly linked to usage of tobacco and consumption of alcohol. Hairy kind of Leukoplakia is observed during HIV infection which is caused by Epstein-Barr virus. Leukoplakia in long run may lead to oral cancer. Hence, oral examination with the dentist is advisable when the condition is suspected. Dentists send the tissue for biopsy to rule out the possibility of oral cancer. If a biopsy comes back positive for oral cancer, the patch must be removed immediately. This can help prevent its spread.
A study reported the prevalence of oral hairy leukoplakia (OHL) in South Australian HIV-infected patients was 45.2 per cent. The study found the presence of OHL was not related to CD4+ T-lymphocyte count or AIDS-defining illness nor did the length of time a patient had been infected with HIV relate to the presence of OHL. An association was observed between a reduced prevalence of OHL in patients who were taking antiviral medication.