Cicatricial (Mucous Membrane) Pemphigoid Clinical Presentation

Updated: May 03, 2017
  • Author: Manuel Valdebran, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Presentation

History

Patients with mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP) (cicatricial pemphigoid) typically present with persistent, painful erosions on the mucous membranes. The clinical manifestations are dependent on the sites involved. A majority of patients demonstrate oral mucosal findings, including erosions and desquamative gingivitis.

Patients with ocular involvement may present with pain or the sensation of grittiness in the eye and conjunctivitis. Erosions may be seen on the conjunctival surface. Early changes include keratinization of the conjunctiva and shortening of the fornices. Later, patients develop entropion with subsequent trichiasis.

Patients often present after ocular surgery, especially for cataracts, with severe inflammation of the eye or eyes and scar formation. With progressive scarring, patients develop symblepharon (fibrous tracts that tether bulbar and conjunctival epithelium), synechiae (adhesion of the iris to the cornea or the lens), and ankyloblepharon (a fixed globe). See the images below.

Ocular manifestations of cicatricial pemphigoid (m Ocular manifestations of cicatricial pemphigoid (mucous membrane pemphigoid) include symblepharon, demonstrated in this photograph by the tethering of the lower lid to the cornea.
With advanced disease, ankyloblepharon (a fixed gl With advanced disease, ankyloblepharon (a fixed globe) develops.
In a patient with more advanced ocular scarring, n In a patient with more advanced ocular scarring, note the thickening of the lid margins, shortening of the conjunctival sulcus, and scarring. The eyelashes have been epilated after entropion developed.

Lacrimal gland and duct involvement leads to decreased tear and mucus production. Diminished tear formation leads to ocular dryness and further trauma.

The end result of ocular involvement is opacification and blindness. Some patients with ocular disease may represent a subset of patients with  mucous membrane pemphigoid who do not develop oropharyngeal, other mucous membrane, or cutaneous disease.

Mouth involvement presents as recurrent, painful erosions. The gingivae are most commonly involved, followed by the palate and the buccal mucosa; however, any mucosal site in the mouth may blister. Involvement of the oropharynx may present with hoarseness or dysphagia. Pharyngeal involvement has been associated with the anti–laminin-332 subset of mucous membrane pemphigoid. [8] Progressive scarring disease may lead to esophageal stenosis requiring dilatation procedures. Supraglottic involvement may lead to airway compromise requiring tracheostomy.

Nasal involvement may manifest as epistaxis, bleeding after blowing the nose, nasal crusting, and discomfort. Other mucosal sites, such as the perianal area or the genitalia, may be involved.

Skin lesions develop in approximately one third of patients with  mucous membrane pemphigoid, manifesting as tense vesicles or bullae that may be hemorrhagic. Blisters may heal with scarring or milia. Scalp involvement may lead to alopecia. Pruritus at the sites of blisters or generalized pruritus may be present.

Cutaneous cicatricial pemphigoid involving the head and the neck without mucosal involvement is known as the Brunsting-Perry variant of localized BP. Patients are predominately elderly and male. Patients present with a chronic, recurrent vesiculobullous eruption on the head and the neck that heals with atrophic scarring. Patients with this disorder have histologic immunofluorescent and immunoelectron microscopic features similar to other patients with mucous membrane pemphigoid.

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Physical Examination

Early ocular lesions may manifest as conjunctivitis, progressing to keratinization of the corneal epithelium and shortening of the corneal sulcus (see first image below). Progressive ocular disease leads to entropion (see first image below) and progressive corneal injury secondary to trichiasis. With persistent disease activity, synchesis and symblepharon occur (see second image below). Long term, ankyloblepharon (a fixed globe) may occur (see third image below). Patients with pure ocular involvement may constitute a distinct subset of patients with mucous membrane pemphigoid. These patients are distinct from patients with classic BP because they have a lower frequency of immunoglobulin G (IgG) and C3 as depicted by direct immunofluorescence (DIF), and they are usually negative for circulating autoantibodies as depicted by indirect immunofluorescence (IIF). These patients do not have detectable reactivity to BP antigens.

See the images below.

In a patient with more advanced ocular scarring, n In a patient with more advanced ocular scarring, note the thickening of the lid margins, shortening of the conjunctival sulcus, and scarring. The eyelashes have been epilated after entropion developed.
Ocular manifestations of cicatricial pemphigoid (m Ocular manifestations of cicatricial pemphigoid (mucous membrane pemphigoid) include symblepharon, demonstrated in this photograph by the tethering of the lower lid to the cornea.
With advanced disease, ankyloblepharon (a fixed gl With advanced disease, ankyloblepharon (a fixed globe) develops.

Nasal involvement can be detected as erosions and crusting in the nasal vestibule, best seen by nasal speculum examination.

Oral erosions often begin on the gingiva, particularly near the teeth. Erosions can also be seen on the palate, the buccal mucosa, the lips, the posterior part of the pharynx, the tongue, and the floor of the mouth. Intact blisters are rarely seen, but they may appear flaccid or tense.

On the genitalia, painful erosions involving the clitoris, labia, glans, or shaft of the penis may be seen. Perianal involvement manifests as perianal blisters and erosions.

On the skin, tense blisters or erosions may be seen on either normal-appearing skin or erythematous plaques. Common sites include the scalp, head, neck, distal extremities, or trunk. In patients with active disease, erosions may be persistent and difficult to heal. Scarring and milia frequently develop in this condition and are helpful in clinically differentiating  mucous membrane pemphigoid from BP and linear immunoglobulin A (IgA) bullous dermatosis, both of which do not tend to scar.

Localized mucous membrane pemphigoid on the head and the neck is known as Brunsting-Perry mucous membrane pemphigoid. This disease heals with scarring and milia.

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Causes

Mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP) is an autoimmune blistering disease associated with autoantibodies directed against basement membrane zone target antigens. Autoantibodies of the IgG subclass, particularly IgG4, are associated with mucous membrane pemphigoid; however, IgA antibodies have also been detected. The two major antigens associated with mucous membrane pemphigoid are BP180 and laminin-332. Patients with clinical features of mucous membrane pemphigoid may have antibodies directed against BP230 or type VII collagen. BP180 is a 180-kd hemidesmosomal protein with multiple extracellular collagenous domains. [9] BP180 is also a major target antigen for patients with BP and linear IgA bullous dermatosis. Patients with mucous membrane pemphigoid react with epitopes on BP180 distinct from those associated with BP and linear IgA bullous dermatosis, particularly the C-terminal of the protein. Given this reaction with the C-terminal epitope, routine serology for BP180 may fail to detect patients with circulating autoantibodies. [8]

A subset of patients with mucous membrane pemphigoid reacts with laminin-332. These patients have circulating autoantibodies that bind to the dermal side of salt-split skin as depicted by IIF study. By immunoelectron microscopy, these autoantibodies deposit at the lower lamina lucida, extending to the lamina densa. Laminin-332 contains disulfide-linked alpha, beta, and gamma chains, of which the alpha subunit is the major site of mucous membrane pemphigoid reactivity. Laminin-332 plays a major role in the adhesion of human keratinocytes to the dermis by binding alpha-6-beta-4 integrin. Because defects in laminin-332 are associated with junctional epidermolysis bullosa, one group has suggested calling mucous membrane pemphigoid associated with anti–laminin-332 autoantibodies acquired junctional epidermolysis bullosa; however, most clinicians refer to this disease as antiepiligrin or anti–laminin-332 mucous membrane pemphigoid.

Autoantibodies specific for laminin-332 and BP180 are believed to be important in blister formation. Lazarova et al [10] have developed an animal model of anti–laminin-332 mucous membrane pemphigoid in which passive transfer of rabbit anti–laminin-332 into neonatal mice leads to a subepidermal blistering disease with features consistent with mucous membrane pemphigoid. Passive transfer of anti–laminin-332 antibodies to mast cell and complement-deficient neonatal mice can also induce blistering, suggesting a direct effect of the circulating autoantibodies in inducing dermal-epidermal cleavage.

The incidence of the HLA haplotype HLA-DQB1*0301 is increased in patients with ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid. This HLA haplotype may be important in the presentation of specific epitopes on target antigens in the generation of an autoimmune response; however, the precise events relevant in the initiation of autoantibody production in patients with this disease are unknown.

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Complications

The following complications have been described in mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP) [11] :

  • Eye - Conjunctival scarring, trichiasis, corneal epithelial defects, sterile and infectious ulcers and scars, keratinization of the cornea, foreshortening of the fornices, trichiasis, synechia, symblepharon, ankyloblepharon, diminished tear formation, glaucoma, visual loss or blindness
  • Skin and extraocular mucous membranes - Oral mucosa, gingivitis, secondary infection, loosening, cutaneous blistering with scarring and milia formation
  • Anogenital region - Fusion of the labia, vaginal stenosis, urethral stenosis, phimosis, constriction of the anal canal
  • Nose and pharynx - Hoarseness, loss of voice, stenosis
  • Esophagus - Dysphagia, strictures, stenosis
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