News Karnataka
Sunday, October 17 2021


Signs and symptoms of Erythroplakia

Erythroplakia is a clinical term to describe any erythematous (red) area on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity. The word ‘erythro’ means red and ‘plakia’ means patch. Although erythroplakia is less common than the leukoplakia, the risk for cancer is high in case of erythroplakia.

Why red lesions appear red?

The lesion appears red because of the Absences of surface keratin layer and Enlarged capillaries project to the surface.

Appearance of erythroplakia:

Erythroplakic lesions may have a smooth and velvety surface. Some erythroplakias are smooth and some are granular or nodular. Often there is a well-defined margin adjacent to mucosa of normal appearance.

In some lesions, the red lesions are interspersed with white lesion and this type of erythroplakia is called as Speckled leukoplakia.

Signs and symptoms:

The commonly associated signs and symptoms of erythroplakia are sensitivity to hot or spicy foods, varying degrees of soreness, Aching and a throbbing sensation.


The exact cause is unknown. Smoking and using chewing tobacco are the most common causes of erythroplakia lesions. Other causes that can lead to erythroplakia formation are the sharp tooth, ill-fitting denture and Cheek biting habits.

How is erythroplakia treated?

After identifying the lesion, dentist will recommend a biopsy. Oral pathologist will examine the tissue sample under a microscope to determine if the lesion is cancer or precancerous.

The biopsy findings, along with the location and size of the lesion, will give the treatment plan. Your doctor may recommend observation of the lesion(frequent follow-ups), laser surgery, cryosurgery and radiation therapy.

Along with the treatment avoiding tobacco products and alcohol can improve the prognosis.


On a longer duration, erythroplakia has higher risk of forming oral cancer.

Early diagnosis and intervention, can prevent the malignant transformation of the lesion. Any white or red lesion in the oral cavity should be taken seriously and immediate consultation of the Dentist is necessary for further investigation.

About the Author:

This article has been contributed by the Department of Oral pathology & Microbiology, Yenepoya Dental College under the Yenepoya (Deemed to be University) established in the year 1992. The department with its robust alumni of 3000 under-graduates and 67 post-graduate students and research scholars has many accolades and achievements to its credit. It strives to provide state of art Oral diagnostics and Molecular Pathology while excelling in research activities and instilling a holistic approach in dental education among students. The department contributes its expertise in fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and providing exemplary education and scientific research.  

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