Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
For most people, stopping tobacco or alcohol use clears the condition. When this isn't effective or if the lesions show early signs of cancer, your dentist may refer you for treatment, which involves:
- Removal of leukoplakic patches. Patches may be removed using a scalpel, a laser or an extremely cold probe that freezes and destroys cancer cells (cryoprobe).
- Follow-up visits. Recurrences are common.
Because your prognosis is better when leukoplakia is found and treated early, when it's small, regular checkups are important, as is routinely inspecting your mouth for areas that don't look normal.
Researchers have investigated the effects of retinoids — derivatives of vitamin A that are used to treat severe acne and other skin conditions — on leukoplakia. They appear to have limited effect in controlling leukoplakia.
Treating hairy leukoplakia
Not all cases of hairy leukoplakia need treatment, and your doctor or dentist may take a wait-and-watch approach. If you need treatment, several options are available:
- Systemic medications. These include antiviral drugs, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir), which prevent the Epstein-Barr virus from replicating, but don't eliminate it from your body. Treatment with antivirals can clear leukoplakic patches, but leukoplakic patches often return once therapy stops.
- Topical medications. These include podophyllum resin solution and tretinoin (retinoic acid). When applied topically, these therapies can improve the appearance of leukoplakic patches, but once the medication is stopped, they may return.
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