What causes hairy leukoplakia?

Updated: Aug 05, 2019
  • Author: James E Cade, DDS; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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Oral hairy leukoplakia (OHL) is associated with HIV infection and/or immunosuppression. [9] The risk of developing oral hairy leukoplakia doubles with each 300-unit decrease in CD4 count. A high viral load was strongly associated to the oral lesions occurrence independently of CD4+ cell count. [10] More recently, it was described in patients with other forms of severe immunodeficiency including those associated with chemotherapy, organ transplant, and leukemia. Rarely, it may occur in patients who are immunocompetent. [3]

Oral hairy leukoplakia also is associated with Behçet syndrome and ulcerative colitis.

Smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day is positively correlated with the development of oral hairy leukoplakia in HIV-positive men.

No increase in oral hairy leukoplakia was observed when controlled for number of oral sex partners. [11]

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