• Alternative Names

    Hairy leukoplakia; Smoker's keratosis


    The most common symptoms of hairy leukoplakia are painless, fuzzy white patches on the side of the tongue.

    The skin lesions tend to have the following characteristics:

    • Location
      • Usually on the tongue
      • May be on the inside of the cheeks
      • In females, occasionally on the genitals
    • Color
      • Usually white or gray
      • May be red (called erythroplakia, a condition that can lead to cancer)
    • Texture
      • Thick
      • Slightly raised
      • Hardened surface

    Signs and tests

    The typical white patch of leukoplakia develops slowly, over weeks to months. The lesion may eventually become rough in texture, and may become sensitive to touch, heat, spicy foods, or other irritation.

    A biopsy of the lesion confirms the diagnosis. An examination of the biopsy specimen may find changes that indicate oral cancer.