Cicatricial Pemphigoid

Updated: Aug 17, 2015
  • Author: Anatoli Freiman, MD, FRCPC, DABD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Cicatricial pemphigoid (CP) refers to a group of rare chronic autoimmune blistering diseases that predominately affects the mucous membranes, including the conjunctiva, and occasionally the skin. Patients with cutaneous involvement present with tense blisters and erosions, often on the head and the neck or at sites of trauma. Scarring of the mucous membranes is common, hence the designation cicatricial, which can lead to decreased vision, blindness, and supraglottic stenosis with hoarseness or airway obstruction. The first international consensus on mucous membrane pemphigoid was published in 2002. [1]

See the illustration below depicting ocular cicatricial pemphigold disease.

Ocular manifestations of cicatricial pemphigoid in Ocular manifestations of cicatricial pemphigoid include symblepharon, demonstrated in this photograph by the tethering of the lower lid to the cornea.

The classification of cicatricial pemphigoid patients has been difficult because some patients with other autoimmune blistering diseases, including bullous pemphigoid (BP) and epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA), may have mucosal involvement. Also, clinical heterogeneity exists in the clinical manifestations of this disease, with some patients presenting with ocular involvement and others with oropharyngeal involvement. The heterogeneity in clinical manifestations does not appear to be linked to the heterogeneity of the target antigens alone.



As in other autoimmune diseases, environmental factors combined with genetic susceptibility lead to development of autoantibodies. By direct immunofluorescence (DIF) study, antibodies bound in a linear band at the epidermal-dermal junction have been found in patients with cicatricial pemphigoid, as depicted below. By immunoelectron microscopy, these antibodies are found in the lamina lucida. In some patients, autoantibodies extend to the lamina densa. When detectable, circulating autoantibodies are present in a low titer. See the image below.

By direct immunofluorescence, a linear band of imm By direct immunofluorescence, a linear band of immunoreactants at the epidermal-dermal junction is demonstrated by using a fluorescein-tagged antibody specific for human immunoglobulin G.

Different epithelial membrane zone components have been recognized by antibodies in patients with cicatricial pemphigoid, including bullous pemphigoid antigen 1 and 2 (BPAG1 and BPAG2), laminin 5, laminin 6, type VII collagen, b4 integrin subunit, and antigens with unknown identities (a 45-kd protein, uncein, a 168-kd epithelial protein, and a 120-kd epithelial protein). While circulating autoantibodies in a given patient tend to target a single antigen, sera of patients with same clinical features may target different autoantigens.




United States

Precise data on the incidence of cicatricial pemphigoid are not known; however, cicatricial pemphigoid is uncommon. Among white patients in the United States, cicatricial pemphigoid is associated with human leukocyte antigen DQB1*0301 (HLA-DQB1*0301).


Studies estimated an incidence of 1.16 cases per million population per year in France and an incidence of 0.87 cases per million population per year in Germany.


No racial predilection is known.


Most studies have demonstrated a female-to-male ratio of approximately 2:1


Most patients with cicatricial pemphigoid are elderly, with a mean age of 62-66 years.