Cheilitis granulomatosa (CG) is a rare chronic disease characterized by a recurrent firm swelling of one or both lips, and, histologically, by a granulomatous infiltrate. An isolated granulomatous machrochelitis defines the cheilitis granulomatosa of Miescher (CGM).
The Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (MRS) is characterized, in its complete form, by a classical triad of symptoms: recurrent or persistent orofacial edema (facial and lip edemas), plicated or fissured tongue (lingua plicata), and relapsing peripheral facial nerve paralysis. Most of the cases of MRS present with partial symptoms. CGM is the most common monosymptomatic form of MRS.
Other diagnoses which are also a part of the orofacial granulomatosis group must be eliminated. The orofacial granulomatosis, first individualized in 1985, by Wiesenfeld et al., is a syndrome grouping noninfectious and nonnecrotizing granulomatous involvement of the lips, oral cavity, and face, in addition to the CG, sarcoidosis, and Crohn disease.
The postulated etiological factors include:
CG is an uncommon disease of undefined incidence and prevalence. One study estimated incidence to be 0.08% of the general population. It may have onset in all age groups, but most commonly seen in adults with peak incidence reported between 20 to 40 years of age. It rarely affects children. However, in two recently published articles, 30 cases in pediatricpatients have been described. Most of the literature suggests an equal sex distribution, however some authors reported that it is more frequently reported in females. Rare familial cases have also been reported.
Histological examination is not necessary for the diagnosis of the complete form of MRS, which can be easily established based on clinical findings. Nevertheless, the histological analysis is necessary for incomplete forms including CGM, especially to eliminate the differential diagnosis of sarcoidosis, Crohn's disease, and other granulomatous disorders including cutaneous tuberculosis, leishmaniasis and leprosy, especially in endemic areas.
The histological characteristics of CG (including CGM and MRS) are granulomatous infiltrate constituted by epithelioid cells and multinucleate giant cells, without caseous necrosis, associated with some degree of lymphedema and fibrosis. These histopathological features are not constant, and their absence should not formally exclude the diagnosis of CG.
Labial swelling is initially characterized by recurrent edematous swellings mimicking angioedema, subsequently after many episodes, it becomes persistent and indurated. It is a firm non-erythematous non-painful swelling affecting one or both lips. Only in few cases, the labial swelling can cause difficulties in speech or may result in drooling.
The complete classical triad is uncommon and maybe observed in one-fourth to one-third of the patients. In the complete form of MRS, all symptoms rarely appear simultaneously, and long intervals between the occurrence of paralysis and the first swelling have been reported. The disease evolves by flare-ups; nevertheless, a permanent edema of the lips, and sometimes on the face, can gradually be observed. The oligosymptomatic and monosymptomatic forms are most frequent at the beginning of the disease, and they represent 40% of the cases.
CGM or Miescher syndrome corresponds to an incomplete form of MRS in 28% of the cases. Thus, it represents the most common form of MRS. It generally affects the upper lip and less frequently the lower lip. In addition, changes in the buccal, palatal, sublingual, and gingival mucosa are anecdotally reported.
Histopathology should be considered and if positive (vide supra) may be extremely helpful in diagnostic confirmation.
Investigations to rule out sarcoidosis (HR-CT scan of chest, serum ACE levels) and PPD testing maybe done as per the clinical scenario.
Since the period between the onset of lip swelling and appearance of typical symptoms of Crohn's disease is highly variable and unpredictable, the role of investigations like colonoscopy or gastroduodenoscopy with biopsies in patients without gastrointestinal symptoms remains controversial.
The rarity of this disease explains the empiricism of therapeutic proposals and the absence of controlled studies. An effective medical treatment is not available at present. The proposed symptomatic treatments are simply intended to avoid or space recurrences, particularly in the edematous stage. The treatment aims to relieve these patients and to improve their quality of life often very disturbed by the unsightly and distressing nature of macrocheilitis and oro-facial edema. The spontaneous disappearance of the disease is rare but has been reported.
Corticosteroid therapy is a classic treatment for CG. It may be administered locally, topically or intralesionally, and at times systemic corticosteroid for short courses (prednisolone: 0.3 to 0.7 mg/kg/d; 25 to 50 mg/d) maybe tried. Other treatments have also been tried for their anti-inflammatory or immunomodulatory effects such as topical tacrolimus, or oral clofazimine, thalidomide, dapsone, and doxycycline, with inconsistent results.
Finally, immunosuppressive treatments such as mycophenolate mofetil, and azathioprine, as well as inhibitors of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) have been tried, alone or in combination, in isolated cases and small series with inconsistently positive results.
Fumaric Acid esters have given good reesults in 50 % of the cases (who were refractory to other modalities).
The cheiloplasty reduction is possible when the lesions are fixed and not evolving.
The list of differentials of lip swelling are many, including:
The histopathology of angioedema is not granulomatous. Moreover conditions like HANE often have a family history and episodic bouts of abdominal pain. Dental abscess can be ruled out with thorough dental examination and swabs. differentiation from other granulomatous disorders has been discussed above (vide supra)
Owing to scarcity of literature, poor understanding of pathophysiology and modest response to therapy, the over all prognosis of the CG spectrum or OFG is not encouraging. Monosymptomatic form, i.e. CGM may resolve with the treatments mentioned above. MRS has the poorest prognosis with no published evidence on the response of neurological complications of MRS to treatment.
As such CGM is a benign disorder. But since CG may be a part of MRS, occurence of facial palsy later is a distinct possibility.
If CG in an individual is representative of evolving Crohn's Disease, then complications of inflammatory bowel disease may occur
The patient should be counseled about the possibility of lip swelling representing CGM alone but also cautioned to report if facial paresis develops, it maybe suggestive of MRS. Careful counseling and explanation about the availability of limited therapeutic options is important.
CG is a rare disorder with a difficult diagnosis, characterized by recurrent or persistent idiopathic swelling of the one or both lips due to granulomatous inflammation. When isolated, it defines the Miescher syndrome. However, other clinical signs may be associated such as facial nerve paralysis and fissured tongue, which complete the triad of MRS. The etiopathogenesis and the etiology of CG are still obscure, and the treatment, therefore, remains uncertain.
In addition to the unsightly nature of this condition and the significant psychological impact, there maybe local complications like excessive lacrimation, dry eyes, disorders of salivary secretion and dysgeusia.
Possible familial cases should be searched. Further studies are needed to explain the pathophysiology and find other more effective therapeutic alternatives.
As mentioned earlier, since the patient may present to a primary care physician/surgeon as well as a specialist including dermatologist, dentist, ENT specialist, or nurse, all the care providers should be cognizant about the condition and its associations. Since maximum work on this condition has been done by dermatologists, other physicians/surgeon/specialists should not delay from referring the patient early. Similarly, meticulous examination for facial paresis may need the ENT specialist or even a neurologist. Thus, interprofessional coordination is vital in the management of this condition.
The rarity of this disease explains the empiricism of therapeutic proposals and the absence of controlled studies. An effective medical treatment apparently is not available at present. The proposed symptomatic treatments are simply intended to avoid or space recurrences, particularly in the edematous stage. The treatment aims to relieve these patients and to improve their quality of life often very disturbed by the unsightly and distressing nature of macrocheilitis and oro-facial edema. The spontaneous disappearance of the disease is rare but has been reported.
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