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 at the outpatient department of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium revealed that Hairy leukoplakia occurred more often in Caucasian homosexual men with HIV infection (38%) than among heterosexual Africans with HIV infection (17%). Hairy leukoplakia was observed in none of the HIV seronegative patients.