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5 Things You Need To Know About White Sponge Nevus

White sponge nevus, also known as Cannon's disease, is a rare genetic condition that is characterized by the presence of white lesions inside the mouth. Here are five things you need to know about this condition.

What are the symptoms?

If you have white sponge nevus, you'll notice white lesions on the insides of your cheeks. These lesions are thick and have a spongy texture. The lesions also have a folded appearance due to their thickness. These lesions are asymptomatic and do not cause pain unless they get infected. If the lesions become infected, they may be painful.

These white lesions may not be limited to the insides of your cheeks. They may also found on nearby tissues like your tongue, lips, esophagus or even inside your nose. The lesions may spread or get thicker during the first few months that you have it, but after that, the lesions don't change much.

How is it inherited?

White sponge nevus is an autosomal dominant disorder. This means that you only need to inherit the abnormal genes responsible for the disorder from one of your parents. Your parent may have the disorder themselves, or they may just carry the gene.

Autosomal dominant disorders can also be new conditions in a family. It's possible for a child to be born with abnormal genes, even if neither of their parents carries these genes.

The genes responsible for white sponge nevus have been identified as Keratin 4 and Keratin 13. These genes are responsible for telling your body how to make keratin, a type of protein that makes up the cells of your mucous membranes, like the insides of your cheeks. Abnormalities in these genes disrupt this process and can manifest as white sponge nevus.

Is it serious?

White sponge nevus is not usually a serious condition. The lesions are not cancerous or pre-cancerous and are only a problem if they get in the way of your chewing function or are posing an aesthetic problem. For example, if your lesions are thick enough that you bite them when you chew, they are a problem. Lesions that are present on the lips and are highly visible are also an issue.

To confirm that you have white sponge nevus and not a more serious type of white lesion, your dentist may want to take a biopsy of the tissue. This is done because pre-cancerous conditions like leukoplakia look fairly similar to white sponge nevus.

Can it be treated?

Treatment isn't generally required for this condition because it is benign. If your lesions aren't causing you any problems, your dentist will recommend leaving them alone. If you find the lesions distressing, some treatments are available. Antibiotics have been used to try to treat the lesions, but this treatment doesn't work for everyone. If antibiotics do get rid of your lesions or reduce them, the recurrence rate is high, so your relief may be only short-term.

Surgical removal of the lesions is also possible. This can be done if the lesions are on your lips and are highly visible. Your dentist will carefully cut away the lesions with a scalpel or a laser.

How common is white sponge nevus?

White sponge nevus is a rare condition. The National Institutes of Health lists it as a "rare disorder", and for a disorder to have that classification, it needs to affect fewer than 1 in 200,000 people. One study of 181,338 people only identified two cases.

If you have white lesions inside your mouth, see your dentist right away for an examination. White lesions can have many potential causes, including white sponge nevus. For more information about this and other issues that may affect you mouth, make an appointment and a family dental clinic near you.