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Hairy Leukoplakia

Hairy Leukoplakia is entirely different than Black Hairy tongue or Hairy Tongue. In Hairy tongue the filiform papillae elongate and look like hairs on the tongue. But in Leukoplakia there are white, raised, vertical ridges on the sides of the tongue although in some cases it can occur under the tongue or inside the cheeks. It is thought by some to be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.

The virus connection

The Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV, is related to herpes and is one of the most common human viruses. Hairy LeukoplakiaIt occurs worldwide and almost everyone becomes infected with EBV sometime during their lifetime. About 95% of all adults in the U.S. have been infected by the time they reach 40 years of age. When infection with EBV occurs during adolescence or young adulthood, it often causes infectious mononucleosis.

Once acquired, EBV lies dormant in some cells of the body’s immune system. If the immune system is compromised, it can flare up. It will often subside if antiviral treatment is taken.

Oral Hairy Leukoplakia (OHL) is a white coating that looks much like oral candidiasis (thrush). But thrush can be scraped off. The white ridges of oral hairy leukoplakia do not scape off. Because it is primarily associated with a compromised immune system, Oral hairy leukoplakia frequently occurs in people who have HIV and indicates that they have moderate to severe immune system damage.

In addition to HIV, it has also been noted in people with other forms of immune deficiencies including those associated with chemotherapy, organ transplant, and leukemia. OHL has also been noted with Behçet syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day increases the chances of developing Hairy Leukoplakia in men who are HIV positive, perhaps because of the added strain on the system.

The risk of developing Leukoplakia doubles with each 300-unit decrease in CD4 count.

Acyclovir® (Zovirax®) is a common antiviral treatment used for things like shingles and herpes. I have taken it for shingles and it works very quickly to kill the virus. A natural antiviral is available as a healing oil from AMOils

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About the Author Tim McMahon

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Often tongue problems are all lumped together as “Geographic Tongue” but there are many varieties, each with a separate solution. Our Tongue Problems Infographic displays pictures and descriptions of the most common tongue problems. To receive your copy, just enter your email address below.