Oral hairy leukoplakia (OHL) is a benign, virally induced hyperplasia of the oral mucosa, most commonly of the inferolateral surface of the tongue, characterized by white, corrugated, verrucous plaques, occurring in patients with symptomatic HIV disease.
Many adults have asymptomatic EBV infection of the oral mucosa. EBV is thought to emerge from latency as HIV-induced immunocompromise progresses and to cause the epidermal hyperplasia in OHL. In those patients who do not carry the diagnosis of AIDS at the time of detection of OHL, the probability of developing AIDS has been reported to be 48% by 16 months after detection and 83% by 31 months.
Oral hairy leukoplakia does not cause any symptoms. It does not affect taste and does not cause pain or discomfort. If it becomes very heavy or noticeable, it can be treated.
More than 25% of HIV-positive people develop OHL at some point during the course of their infection. It is most common among HIV-positive men and smokers.
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