In leukoplakia (also: Leukokeratosis, white callous disease) is a disease in which the cornea of ​​the mucous membranes (especially in the mouth area) is thickened and therefore white streaks that cannot be wiped off form in these areas. The risk of developing a malignant skin tumor (Squamous cell carcinoma) is higher than normal (mucous) skin.

Also read the article on the topic: Changes in the mucous membrane of the mouth


In Germany about every 100th person suffers from leukoplakia, whereby Men are affected twice as often are like women. The disease occurs most often in middle to old age.

Causes of Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia can occur when the mucous membrane is subject to chronic irritation. This results in a thickening of the horny layer. As a result, the blood vessels lying just below the surface can no longer stand out so clearly in such a case, which is why the mucous membrane at this point appears whitish instead of red.

The chronic irritation can have several causes:

  • chemical stimuli (cigarette or pipe smoking)
  • biological stimuli (viral infections that mainly affect the mucous membrane of the genital area)
  • mechanical stimuli (ill-fitting dentures)

In addition, there are certain factors that favor the development of leukoplakia:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Deficiency of vitamin A and vitamin B.
  • excessive consumption of alcohol
  • poor oral hygiene

Symptoms of leukoplakia

Leukoplakia mainly affects the mouth area.

Apart from the typical appearance with whitish, sharply demarcated, non-peelable changes in the mucous membrane, leukoplakia is usually not accompanied by any other symptoms.

In contrast to many other skin diseases, pain and itching do not occur with this disease. Most often the mucous membranes of the mouth, tongue and lips are affected, and less often the mucous membrane of the genital area.

Depending on the appearance of the skin symptoms, two types of leukoplakia can be distinguished:

  • homogeneous shape (also simple or non-proliferative form called), in which the discoloration is regular and the skin surface is smooth.
  • inhomogeneous form (also: wart-like or proliferative form called) is characterized by the fact that red spots can occur in the white areas and the surface is of a wart-like, rough texture. Typically, at this stage, the limitation in relation to healthy skin is no longer so clear. In contrast to the homogeneous form, the inhomogeneous form of leukoplakia has a higher risk of degeneration and more frequent symptoms such as pain or burning.

Diagnosis of leukoplakia

The diagnosis of leukoplakia is made in most cases by chance within the framework of Routine examinations at the doctor or dentistbecause the disease does not cause any discomfort to the patient. To confirm the diagnosis, it makes sense to have a Tissue sample from the affected area to take and examine these histologically (histologically).

Important differential diagnoses of leukoplakia are:

  • various infections (e.g. by the fungus Candida albicans or the Epstein-Barr Virus)
  • Hairy leukoplakia in the context of HIV can occur
  • Lichen planus

Treatment of leukoplakia

Treatment is possible with a laser, for example.

First of all, it is important to consistently avoid the causative factor of leukoplakia as much as possible. Patients should therefore stop smoking under all circumstances, optimize the fit of the dentures or adequately treat an existing viral infection.

If this behavior is strictly observed, there is a very high chance that the leukoplakia will clear up on its own within a few weeks. However, if the lesions on the skin have not regressed over time (around 20% of those affected), it is important to have treatment, as there is a possibility that a prolonged leukoplakia can develop into a malignant tumor.

Hence be persistending (permanent) foci usually removed. This can be done with the help of a

  • Removal
  • Icing of the horny cells (cryosurgery) or
  • Laser removal


The complete removal (Excision) is usually the preferred method, since the cut edge of the tissue can be checked afterwards to see whether the skin change has been completely removed and whether a malignant degeneration has already taken place.


The prognosis for simple leukoplakia is as very good to watch. If the the triggering factor identified and consequently eliminated then it almost always recedes by itself.

Besides, this is Risk of degeneration in this form as extremely low to be classified (less than 3%). In the inhomogeneous, wart-shaped Leukoplakia is a slightly higher risk that it will eventually develop into a malignant tumor. Especially when it is advanced and already so called Erosions (red spots), the risk of degeneration increases to up to 30%.

Therefore, one should suspect such a disease necessarily a doctor seek out. Will leukoplakia discovered in time, she can be treated well. However, leukoplakia often recurs in many patients (Relapse). Hence, it is important that you get there at regular intervals Check-ups at the doctor appears so that this may have recurring changes Recognize and treat early on can.


There are a number of things you can do yourself to prevent leukoplakia. It makes a lot of sense common risk factors like cigarettes, pipe smoking, and alcohol to avoid.

In addition, you should be on a adequate oral hygiene pay attention and make sure that a Denture sits well and firmly in the mouth. After all, it is of course important to have routine examinations at the doctor and dentist carried out regularly and to consult a doctor even in the event of unclear changes in the mucous membrane that do not resolve on their own in order to rule out leukoplakia.

Further topics from this area

Skin changes

Skin changes such as wrinkling is a natural phenomenon of aging. Other changes in the skin can be an expression of a disease of the skin or other organs.
Here you get to the topic: Skin changes

Oral hygiene

Oral hygiene involves taking care of the teeth and mucous membranes of the mouth and tongue. In addition to brushing your teeth, there are other ways to ensure good oral hygiene.
Here you get to the topic: Oral hygiene