All About Erythroplakia: Detection, Symptoms, and Treatment
What Is Erythroplakia?
Erythroplakia is a type of skin condition that causes redness or itching at the site where a person’s blood vessels are present. These blood vessels are called capillaries because they contain tiny holes (capillaries) through which oxygenated blood flows from one place to another. When these capillaries become clogged with dead cells, the flow of blood becomes slower and less efficient. This results in pain, swelling, and inflammation.
The term “leukoplakia” refers to any type of skin disease that causes redness or itchiness at the site where white blood cells are present. White blood cells help fight infection and other diseases. They include antibodies that help kill germs and other harmful organisms.
How Does Erythroplakia Occur?
There are several possible reasons why someone may develop erythroplakia. Some of them are:
A blockage of capillary blood vessels due to age, injury, or other conditions such as diabetes mellitus.
Heavy drinking or smoking, especially if combined with a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
An inherited tendency to develop the problem.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
A side effect of some medicines, such as certain antidepressants, cancer drugs, or drugs used to treat malaria or HIV.
A skin condition that causes an overgrowth of melanin, a type of dark pigment that gives skin its color.
An autoimmune disease, such as lupus, that causes the body to attack its own healthy tissue.
A type of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that affects the skin.
Symptoms Of Erythroplakia
A red, scaly patch or spot appears on the skin. Sometimes it appears after an injury. Later, it may start to itch, swell, or feel tender or painful. The color may change or the area may become lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.
Tests For Erythroplakia
The health care provider will examine the affected area. If erythroplakia is suspected, a sample of skin (biopsy) may be taken and examined under a microscope.
Treatment Of Erythroplakia
If the cause is an infection, it will be treated with antibiotics.
If the cause is an autoimmune disease, other medicines such as prednisone may be needed. The effect of some drugs on erythroplakia is not yet known.
If the cause is a side effect of a drug, that drug may need to be stopped or changed.
Surgery is rarely needed.
Erythroplakia may go away without treatment. It may last for many years. In rare cases, it may become cancerous.
If an infection develops, it may spread to other parts of the body.
Cancerous changes in the skin may develop.
Calling Your Doctor
If you notice a lesion or a red, scaly patch on your genitals or in your mouth, call your health care provider.
If you have questions about erythroplakia, contact your health care provider.
Prevention Of Erythroplakia
The best way to prevent erythroplakia is to avoid things known to cause it, such as heavy drinking or heavy smoking and a diet low in fruits and vegetables. The HPV vaccine can also prevent erythroplakia caused by human papillomavirus.
Last revised: December 7, 2013
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.
Sources & references used in this article:
Oral cancer and oral erythroplakia: an update and implication for clinicians by A Villa, C Villa, S Abati – Australian dental journal, 2011 – Wiley Online Library
Evaluation of an autofluorescence based imaging system (VELscope™) in the detection of oral potentially malignant disorders and benign keratoses by KH Awan, PR Morgan, S Warnakulasuriya – Oral oncology, 2011 – Elsevier
Oral erythroplakia—a review by PA Reichart, HP Philipsen – Oral oncology, 2005 – Elsevier
Outcome of excision of oral erythroplakia by SW Yang, YS Lee, LC Chang, TY Hsieh… – British Journal of Oral and …, 2015 – Elsevier
The use of light‐based (optical) detection systems as adjuncts in the detection of oral cancer and oral potentially malignant disorders: a systematic review by A Rashid, S Warnakulasuriya – … of Oral Pathology & Medicine, 2015 – Wiley Online Library
Clinical characteristics of narrow-band imaging of oral erythroplakia and its correlation with pathology by SW Yang, YS Lee, LC Chang, CC Hwang, CM Luo… – BMC cancer, 2015 – Springer
Clinical and histopathological evaluation and habits associated with the onset of oral leukoplakia and erythroplakia by SIML Queiroz, AMC Medeiros, JSP Silva… – Jornal Brasileiro de …, 2014 – SciELO Brasil
Expression of cancer stem cell markers ALDH1 and Bmi1 in oral erythroplakia and the risk of oral cancer by JQ Feng, ZY Xu, LJ Shi, L Wu, W Liu… – … pathology & medicine, 2013 – Wiley Online Library
Erythroplakia of the oral cavity by WG Shafer, CA Waldron – Cancer, 1975 – Wiley Online Library