Hairy Leukoplakia

Hairy leukoplakia is a viral infection that affects the mucous membranes of the mouth, particularly the tongue. It is characterized by the appearance of white, raised lesions that have a hairy or corrugated appearance. The condition is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is a common virus that is also responsible for causing infectious mononucleosis.

Hairy leukoplakia is most commonly seen in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy. The condition is not typically painful or dangerous, but it can be a sign of an underlying immune system disorder.


The main cause of hairy leukoplakia is the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is a member of the herpesvirus family. However, not everyone infected with EBV will develop hairy leukoplakia, and certain factors can increase the risk of developing this condition. Here are some of the main causes of hairy leukoplakia:

  1. Weakened immune system: People with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipients, and people undergoing chemotherapy, are at higher risk of developing hairy leukoplakia. This is because their immune system is not able to fight off the EBV virus effectively.
  2. Smoking: Smoking tobacco or using other tobacco products can increase the risk of developing hairy leukoplakia. Tobacco use can weaken the immune system and cause irritation to the lining of the mouth, which can make it easier for the virus to infect the cells.
  3. Stress: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing viral infections such as hairy leukoplakia.
  4. Poor oral hygiene: Poor oral hygiene can create an environment in the mouth that is more susceptible to infections. This can include not brushing or flossing regularly, not using mouthwash, and not visiting the dentist regularly.
  5. Age: Hairy leukoplakia is more common in older adults, although it can occur at any age.

In summary, hairy leukoplakia is primarily caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, but certain risk factors such as a weakened immune system, smoking, stress, poor oral hygiene, and age can increase the likelihood of developing this condition.


Some of the main symptoms of hairy leukoplakia include:

  1. White, hairy or furry patches on the tongue, inside of the cheeks, gums or roof of the mouth.
  2. Patches may be raised, rough, or irregular in shape.
  3. The patches do not rub off easily and may appear to be stuck to the surface of the tongue.
  4. Discomfort or pain in the mouth, especially when eating or drinking.
  5. Sore throat or difficulty swallowing.
  6. Dry mouth or an altered sense of taste.
  7. Bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Hairy leukoplakia is often associated with HIV infection or other conditions that weaken the immune system. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor or dentist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.


Hairy leukoplakia is a condition that is diagnosed based on clinical symptoms and an oral examination. The doctor may take a biopsy of the affected tissue and examine it under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

A definitive diagnosis of hairy leukoplakia can be made using a combination of clinical examination, medical history, and laboratory tests. Tests may include:

  1. Oral examination: The doctor may use a special light to examine the mouth for signs of hairy leukoplakia.
  2. Biopsy: A small tissue sample is taken from the affected area and sent to the laboratory for analysis.
  3. Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) and other blood tests may be done to check for underlying conditions that may be contributing to the development of hairy leukoplakia.
  4. HIV testing: Since hairy leukoplakia is often seen in people with HIV, a blood test may be done to confirm the presence of the virus.
  5. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test: This test is used to detect the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in the affected tissue. EBV is the virus that is responsible for causing hairy leukoplakia.

In summary, the main diagnosis test for hairy leukoplakia involves a clinical examination, biopsy, blood tests, HIV testing, and PCR testing to confirm the presence of EBV. It is important to note that only a healthcare professional can make a definitive diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment.