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White Sponge Nevus - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Published on Apr 02, 2022   -  4 min read


White sponge nevus is a genetic condition characterized by the formation of white, spongy patches in the mucous membrane of the mouth. Read this article to know more.



Have you ever wondered why you get those white patches on your inner cheeks inside your mouth? Well, it could be leukoplakia or candidal infections which is a common oral problem seen among adults. But not all white patches on the mucosa are leukoplakia or infections. Some patches, which do not cause any discomfort, could be seen since birth or since early childhood,, and this condition is called white sponge nevus.

What Is White Sponge Nevus?

White sponge nevus is a genetic condition that affects the mucosal lining of the mouth due to the mutation of a gene. This condition is often characterized by the formation of thick, velvety white layers of tissues in the mucosal lining of the oral cavity. In some cases, white, velvety dense tissue formations are also seen in the mucosal lining of the genital areas. This condition can be seen since birth or can be witnessed during the early childhood period. Each velvety white patch of tissue formation is called a “nevi” (nevus is the plural form of nevi).

What Causes White Sponge Nevus?

White sponge nevus is an autosomal dominant condition. It is caused due to the mutation of a gene, KRT4 or KRT13. These genes are responsible for the synthesis of a fibrous protein called keratin. This protein keratin strengthens the fibers of the mucosal linings of all the cavities of the body. When a mutation occurs in either of these genes, it leads to the formation of an abnormal fibrous protein that is weaker than keratin. This protein often gets damaged easily during everyday activities like chewing food or brushing the teeth. This condition might run in families.

What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of White Sponge Nevus?

White sponge nevus is a very rare genetic autosomal dominant condition. That is, this condition is seen to affect less than one person in every 200000 people. This condition affects both men and women equally and is not found to affect any particular population. Some of the common signs and symptoms of white sponge nevus are,

How to Diagnose White Sponge Nevus?

What Are the Other Conditions That Mimic White Sponge Nevus?

Few other standard conditions of the oral cavity resemble white sponge nevus. Therefore before starting any treatment or before making the final diagnosis, the presence of other conditions must be ruled out. Some of the common conditions that mimic white sponge nevus are,

What Are Other Names Used for White Sponge Nevus?

White sponge nevus (WSN) is called by different names such as,

  1. Cannon’s disease.

  2. Nevus of cannon.

  3. Familial white folded mucosal dysplasia.

  4. Hereditary oral keratosis.

  5. White gingivo stomatitis.

  6. White sponge nevus of cannon.

  7. White sponge nevus of the mucosa.

  8. Leukokeratosis of the oral mucosa.

  9. Leukokeratosis, hereditary mucosal.

How to Treat White Sponge Nevus?

White sponge nevus is an autosomal dominant condition that does not cause any severe complications. Therefore, mostly there is no treatment needed for cure.


White sponge nevus is a very rare genetic autosomal dominant condition that might lead to the formation of white spongy layers of tissues in the oral cavity. Though they resemble leukoplakia or lichen planus, they do not usually cause any discomfort or pain to the person having it. Therefore 90 percent of the persons affected do not seek treatment. However, further invasion of the white sponge nevus with bacteria can lead to discomfort and pain. These complications can be avoided by following a proper oral hygiene routine and using antiseptic mouthwashes with Chlorhexidine in them.


Frequently Asked Questions


Does White Sponge Nevus Go Away Without Any Treatment?

White sponge nevus is usually present since birth, or it can develop during childhood. This condition is harmless and does not require any treatment.


Are White Sponge Nevus Usually Bilateral?

White sponge nevus is a hereditary oral mucosal condition characterized by the formation of thick white velvety layers in the oral cavity. They are usually seen bilaterally and are symmetrical. The common site involved is buccal mucosa.


Are White Sponge Nevus Precancerous?

White sponge nevus is a hereditary oral mucosal condition that is usually present since birth or can develop during early childhood. This condition does not increase the chances of oral cancer and is entirely harmless.


What Is the Difference Between Oral Thrush and Leukoplakia?

Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by Candida albicans, whereas leukoplakia is a precancerous lesion. Oral thrush lesions are softer, and they bleed on scraping. In contrast, leukoplakia is not as smooth as oral thrush lesions, and they cannot be scraped as in oral thrush lesions.


Are White Sponge Nevus Inherited?

Yes, white sponge nevus is an inherited autosomal dominant condition. This means that inheriting one copy of an altered gene from either of the parents is sufficient to develop this condition.


Is White Sponge Nevus Common?

The exact prevalence of white sponge nevus is yet to be known. However, one in 200000 people are known to be affected by this condition.


What Is the Difference Between White Sponge Nevus and Leukoplakia?

One of the significant differences between a white sponge nevus lesion and leukoplakia is that the onset of white sponge nevus is usually from birth or early childhood. In comparison, leukoplakia is an adult-onset condition. Another major difference is that white sponge nevus is entirely harmless, unlike leukoplakia which is a precancerous lesion.

Last reviewed at:
02 Apr 2022  -  4 min read




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