What's the Difference Between Leukoplakia and Oral Hairy Leukoplakia?
Leukoplakia causes white patches in the mouth that can't be scraped off. There's no known cause for leukoplakia (when it's not of the "oral hairy" variety), but experts tend to think tobacco is a major risk factor.
Learn more about leukoplakia.
Oral hairy leukoplakia, however, is a type of leukoplakia that commonly afflicts people who have the Epstein-Barr virus and a weakened immune system (especially from HIV), according to the Mayo Clinic. Most people get the Epstein-Barr virus at some point in their lives, so it's common that someone who lives with HIV will experience these white fuzzy patches on the sides of their tongue.
But don't go self-diagnosing yourself with the Epstein-Barr Virus and HIV – the combination is a common cause, but not the only cause. Oral Hairy Leukoplakia is also associated with people who have had organ transplants or are taking medications to suppress their immune system. If you think you may have oral hairy leukoplakia visit your dental professional for a diagnosis.
Important note: Oral hairy leukoplakia looks very similar to oral thrush. If you have oral thrush (candida mouth), you may be able to wipe the white substance away or scrape it off your tongue.