There are many types of lesions that can form inside your mouth, and while some of them are harmless, others can be a sign of more serious problems. Oral erythroplakia is a red lesion that forms on the mucous membranes inside your mouth, like the insides of your cheeks. This lesion is a concern because it can be a precursor to oral cancer. Here's what you need to know about it.
What causes oral erythroplakia?
The cause of this condition is still not completely understood. Studies have linked factors like smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and drinking alcohol as possible causes. Excess sun exposure has also been proposed as a possible cause.
Who gets oral erythroplakia?
Oral erythroplakia is a very rare condition and only affects between 0.02% and 0.83% of people. This condition is about three times more common in men than in women, and is more common among older people. The mean age of a person with oral erythroplakia is 57.
How do you identify it?
Oral erythroplakia appears as a red lesion inside your mouth, and sometimes, white patches are present on the lesion, giving it a speckled appearance. This condition is usually painful, but not always. It is usually found either on the roof of your mouth or in the very back of your throat, so it's hard to get a good look at it.
This condition looks similar to other types of oral lesions, ranging from harmless lesions (like canker sores) to harmful lesions (such as oral cancer). You won't be able to tell the difference on your own, and even your dentist may not be able to identify just by looking at it. A biopsy or other tests may be necessary to make a diagnosis.
Does oral erythroplakia always turn into cancer?
Oral erythroplakia is classified as a potentially malignant disorder; this means that it doesn't always turn into cancer, but it can. Studies have shown that between 14% and 50% of these lesions later become cancerous, so getting it treated soon is in your best interest
How is it treated?
The first treatment for this condition is surgery. Your dentist will surgically remove the lesion with a scalpel or a laser before it gets the chance to become cancerous. Some dentists use cryosurgery instead, which means that they freeze the lesion to kill its cells. In cases where the oral erythroplakia has already become cancerous, you may also need radiation therapy or chemotherapy in addition to surgery.
Oral erythroplakia is a serious oral health problem due to the risk of it becoming cancerous. If you have a red lesion inside your mouth, ask a dentist (such as one from http://www.fortcollinsdentist.com) to take a look at it right away.