Leucoplakia – diagnosis and management

“Leucoplakia “ (Leuco = white / plakia = patch) refers to the condition often seen on the lips and the oral mucosa (vermillion). This is a pre-cancerous condition and is the result of exposure to irritants (the sun on the lips and hot foods on the oral mucosa) causing a thickening and whitening of the lips or oral mucosa.

In effect, this is the formation of a protective callus on a damaged area. While this is protective, in time the area starts breaking down and ends up as a Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Removal of the irritant will help but often treatment is necessary. In earlier days, surgical removal of the vermillion was the only option but over the last 25 years, Carbon Dioxide ablation of the lip mucosa (vermillionectomy) gives very good results with no scarring. A bonus is the improvement in the tone of the lip and colour of the vermillion.

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