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Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia

Print version ISSN 0365-0596

An. Bras. Dermatol. vol.85 no.2 Rio de Janeiro Mar./Apr. 2010 



Clinical evaluation of oral lesions associated with dermatologic diseases*



Letícia Machado GonçalvesI; José Ribamar Sabino Bezerra JúniorI; Maria Carmen Fontoura Nogueira da CruzII

IDiploma in dentistry granted by the Federal University of Maranhão, São Luís, MA, Brazil
IIMaster’s Degree and PhD in Oral Pathology granted by the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte. Faculty, Department of Dentistry II, Federal University of Maranhão, São Luís, MA, Brazil

Mailing Address




BACKGROUND: Dermatologic diseases are not only represented by lesions affecting the skin but also by manifestations that may involve the mucous membranes, including oral mucosa.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the frequency of oral manifestations associated with dermatologic diseases considering location and clinical characteristics of the lesions found and also gender, age and race of patients.
METHOD: It was an observational, cross-sectional study of patients who sought for treatment at the Dermatology Service of the University Hospital (Hospital Presidente Dutra-HUPD); UFMA, between October 2007 and October 2008 (n=88).
RESULTS: Age varied from 5 to 88 and there was predominance of female patients. 35% of the cases studied were diagnosed as lichen planus; 33% as lupus erythematosus; 24% as erythema multiforme; 7% as pemphigus vulgaris and 1% as pemphigoid group. Oral manifestations were more common among patients suffering from lichen pplanus (51%) and lupus erythematosus (20%). The most common clinical presentation found was reticular lichen planus located most predominantly in the buccal mucosa.
CONCLUSIONS: It is essential that dentists know these pathologies to be able to diagnose them in an early stage of the disease and to direct patients to adequate treatment. Furthermore, intraoral examination should be included as a routine practice in dermatological services.

Keywords: Dermatology; Diagnosis, oral; Oral manifestations




Dermatologic diseases are represented not only by numerous primary diseases that affect the skin but also by the common cutaneous manifestations of more profunds diseases, either visceral or systemic, that may involve the mucosas of the body, including the oral mucosa. Currently, dermatoses constitute an area of great scientific and odontological interest, considering that oral lesions can precede cutaneous marks for long periods of time, being, sometimes, the only signs of the disease1,2. In this context, the most expressive pathologies are lichen planus, lupus erythematosus, erythema multiforme, phemphigus vulgaris and the group of the pemphigoid lesions1,2,3 .

Lichen planus (LP) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin and mucosas, that manifests itself in the oral cavity with high frequency1,2,4,5,6. before or after epidermic appearances7. These lesions are characterized by Wicham streaks3,4,7,8,9 and may present themselves under various clinical forms, mainly the reticular and erosive one.

Lupus erythematosus (LE) is an autoimmune disease that, classically, can be subdivided into systemic lupus erythematosus (LES) and cutaneous lupus erythematosus(LEC)10,11. The involvement of the oral mucosa may occur in both forms12 and the possibility of manifesting itself in a more agressive way recquires more attention and early diagnosis3,12,13.

Erythema multiforme is an ulcerative and bullous disorder of uncertain etiopathogenesis, characterized by cutaneous eruption followed or not by oral involvement, that may, occasionally involve the mouth in an isolated manner3,14,15,16,17.

Phemphigus vulgaris is an autoimmune pathology characterized by the formation of intraepithelial bullae, on the skin and mucosas that are easy to tear with a minor trauma, developing into painful ulcerations easily inflamed3. In the majority of the cases, the first signs develop in the genal mucosa and these lesions may, precede the cutaneous ones for long periods of time19,20,21,22.

The term pemphigoid refers to an autoimmune bullous disease that may attain the skin and mucosas, especially the oral and the ocular ones3. Among them the cicatricial pemphigoid lesions, with more frequent oral lesions, and the bullous pemphigoid that affects mainly the skin2,3,18.

The objective od this present article is to assess the frequency of the oral manifestations in patients who suffer from dermatologic diseases , emphasizing the aspects referring to their location and clinical characteristics , sex, race and age of the patients. By doing that, we aim at calling the attention of dental surgeons, as well as of dermatologists to the need of making an early diagnosis, to improve the quality of life of patients who suffer from these diseases, reinforcing the importance of a multidisciplinary assistance.



To satisfy the fundamental ethical and scientific requirements of Resolution 196/96 (Norms for Research Involving Human Beings) from the National Health Council, the present project was submitted to the Committee of Ethics In Research of President Dutra Hospital from UFMA and it was approved according to opinion 488/2007. Before proceedings either the patient or his/her responsible was asked to sign a formal written term of consent.

It was carried out an observational study, of tranverse type, which had at its target population patients that sought for medical treatment in the Dermatologic service of President Dutra University Hospital (HUPD) from UFMA between October 2007 and October 2008.

The criteria for choosing the studied sample was convenience and it was a randon selection of participants among patients that were waiting for medical assistance in the waitinfg room. The criteria for the inclusion of patients was having had a diagnosis of one of the following diseases made: lichen planus, lupus erythematosus, erythema multiforme, phemphigus vulgaris and the group of pemphigoid lesions. Considering the great variety of diseases it was decided to focus on the diseases that most frquently present oral lesions, according to the current medical publications1,2,3. Patients who were not voluntarily willing to participate and that did not have a confirmed clinical or histopathological diagnosis of the above mentioned diseases were excluded from the present study.

For data gathering only patients included in the research were clinically examined aiming at identifying oral and cutaneous alterations. Information was recorded in individual clinical cards, as well as personal information, health conditions, family diseases and current and previous diseases.

The statisitic software used was SPSS 13.0,2004; and the variables analysed were age, sex, the occurence or not of oral lesions, their location and characteristics of the oral lesions observed.



After a year of research, 88 patients were examined, being 57 female and 31 male (approximate proportion of 2:1) and age group varied from 5 to 88 years of age. Out of the total number of 88 cases examined (n=88), 35% were lichen planus, 33% were lupus erythematosus, 24% were erythema multiforme, 7% were phemphigus vulgaris and 1% were from the pemphigoid group (Table 1). All patients presented one or more cutaneous alterations peculiar to each of the diseases investigated. As for the total amount of oral lesions found (n=35), these lesions were more frequently found among patients who suffered from lichen planus (51%), followed by lupus erythematosus (20%), erythema multiforme( 20%) and phemphigus vulgaris (9%). Oral alterations were not observed in the pemphigoid group (Table 2).

Patients suffering from lichen planus (n=31) were mainly women (60%) who were in their thirties and forties (48%). Among them, 18 presented repercussion in the oral cavity. As for clinical forms the predominant was the reticular one (83%) followed by erusive forms (12%) and the atrophyc ones (5%) (Figure 1). The sites mostly common affected were the jugal mucosa (Figure 2), tongue(Figure 3), gingiva, palatum, turned edge and lips (Table 3).In two occasions, two sites were affected simultaneously: jugal mucosa and tongue and palatum and border edge.







Patients suffering from lupus erythematosus (n=29) were mainly women (1:4), without preponderance of any age group. Out of the total number of patients, 62% were diagnosed as suffering from systemic lupus erythomatosus (SLE) and 48% as suffering from cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE). Among patients from the SLE group (n=18) it was registered 22% of oral involvement being the clinical characteristics and sites mostly affected: erythematous plaques in the jugal mucosa (50%) (Figure 4), redish maculae in the palatum (25%) and ulcerations on the tongue(25%). As for the CLE group of patients (n= 11) oral lesions occurred in 27% of them, all with ulcerations in the jugal mucosa(100%).



Erythema multiforme (n=21) was found mainly among women (62%) within the age group from 20 to 40 years of age (48%). Only 7 patients presented oral lesions, and out of this number, 57% reported relation between the disease and viral infections especially herpes simplex, 29% reported relation with drugs and 14% did not mention any kind of relation. As for forms, 43% presented ulcerated lesions in the jugal mucosa, followed by crust lips (43%) and ulcerations in the tongue (24%).

Phemphigus vulgaris (n=6) occured mainly in patients who were over 50 (50%) without prevalence of sex. The involvement of the oral cavity occurred in 3 patients , with clinical characteristics of ulcerations (100%). The sites where these ulcerations mainly occurred were the jugal mucosa (75%) and the palatum (25%).

The pemphigoid group, in this sample, presented only 1 patient with a diagnosis of bullous pemphigoid without oral lesion.



Lichen planus (LP) is the commonest dermatologic disease with manifestations in the oralcavity1,2,4,5,6,7,9 as the collected results of this research confirmed, with a general prevalence in the population of 1% to 2%5. It was found out ,in this study, that more than 50% of the cases presented the involvement of the genal mucosa, confirming the findings of Mollaoglu4 that affirm that these lesions are frequent and that they represent the most persistent and resistant to treatment.

In the examined sample, LP prevailed in women (2:1), who were around 30 and 40 years of age, in the same way it was reported by other authors6,7,8,23,24. Sousa and Rosa6 analyzed 79 cases of LP with oral involvement and concluded that the female sex is affected approximately 4 times more than the male sex and that white individuals are 5 times more predisposed to develop this pathology. The authors suggest that the high prevalence in the female sex may be related to a greater susceptibility of women to emotional stress. Publications have alredy proved that there is a strong relation between the periods the disease exarcebates and the levels of anxiety6,25.

As for prevalence in white individuals there are a few sudies that analyze this subject, however, it is believed that it is associated to genetic factors and also to histocompatibility26.In this research results showed that there was a discreet preference for white individuals (60%).

The positive association between LP and systemic diseases is being also anlyzed, mainly Hepatitis C27,28 , fact that was not observed in the collected sample. Nagao and Sata28 found out that the relation between LP and Hepatitis C is not consistent; and that the prevalence of this virus in association with the disease varies from 0-60% in scientific publications, depending on in which country the research was carried out, what may be attributed to different prevalences of the virus within the general population.

Clinically, LP has specific characteristics8, it is generally presented in 2 main forms: the reticular forme and the erusive3 one, although other forms such as the papular, the plaque shape, bullous and atrophyc4 are not rare7. In this study the commonest clinical appearance was the reticular one, as it was demonstrated in other researches2,4,6,24, characterized by white streaks with a lace look and described as asymptomatic3,4,7,8. Only 2 patients presented the erusive form and 1 patient presented the atrophyc form. The erusive form although not as common as the reticular form, is more significant for the patient because although these lesions are asymptomatic, varying from simple distress to episodes of severe pain they can interfere with mastication, as described by the examined patients5.

The main affected site was the jugal mucosa, followed by the tongue, gingiva, palatum, turned edge and lips, in accordance with the profiles presented by other authors 2,3,6,8 . In two cases there was a simultaneous aapearance in more than one site, being these areas the jugal mucosa and tongue; palatum and turned edge, similar to the findings of Galvão et al.2 and Eisen8, and opposed to the studies of Xue et al.24 that reported, in a study of 674 patients, 90,9% of findings in multiple oral sites. Preference for the jugal mucosa is due to the thickness of the epithelium as well as to its level of keratinization that allows histopathological alterations to reflect themselves clinically with greater facility than in other mucosas6.

Lupus erythemathosus (LE) can develop in both sexes3 and at any age although there is a greater predominance among women10,11. In this research there was a proportion of 1:4.

The oral mucosa can be affected in its systemic form (SLE) as well as in its cutaneous form (CLE)10,11 as confirmed in the sample presented here, although publications about the frequency of these lesions are conflicting, depending on the stage of them and on the kind of treatment received10,13.

Some authors suggest that the genal mucosa is involved in 9-45% of the cases of patients suffering from SLE and in 3-20% of cases of patients suffering from CLE10,13. However, in this present study, lesions were most common in CLE, as the studies of Lourenço et al.11 show. The small incidence of oral manifestations in SLE may be linked to the moment patients were examined as its majority was already in a stage of nosocomial treatement. López-Labady observed that such manifestations were more frequent in individuals with a less than 2yeardiagnosis, fact that allowed them to conclude that treatement with immunosupressive drugs probably keep patients free from oral alterations.

In general, considering the morphological aspects, the main forms clinically recorded were erythematous plaques, ulcerations and redish maculae in the palatum. The main sites affected were the jugal mucosa, lips, palatum and tongue, similar to the findings of a previous study10.

Erythema multiforme (EM) can be represented either by a light cutaneous variant, EM minor 14, represented by 65% of the examined patients in this study; as well as for a more severe variant, the EM major15, represented by 35% of the sample, including a patient with a diagnosis of toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), considered a severe EM major16 infection.

Neville et al.3 affirm that, in general, patients are adults who are between 20-40 years of age, being men more affected than women, fact incompatible with the results of this study that revealed female predominance (62%). It is a recurrent disease being preceeded, in the majority of the cases, by herpes simplex15 infections. In the collected results, 57% of the patients related the appearance of lesions with viral infections, mainly herpes simplex, 29% related relation with drugs and 14% did not mention any relation.

The EM can manifest itself only in the mouth or it can preceed cutaneous involvement affecting the oral mucosa in 85-92% of the cases17. In this research only 20% of the cases occured in the mouth. This low percentage might be related to the fact that the majority of the examined patients were already under medication, constituting this a limitation of this study. The main clinical forms and areas affected were ulcerated lesions in the jugal mucosa, crust lips that bleeded easily and ulcerations on the back of the tongue, compatible with data found by Farthing et al.15.

Phemphigus vulgaris (PV) occurred with higher frequency in patients who were over 50, findings consistent with other publications18,19,20,21. As for sex, there was an equal distribution among men and women, as described by Neville et al.3. However, contradictorily, Budimir et al.18, Iamaroom et al.20 and Shamim et al.21 affirm that the female sex is more affected than the male one in a proportion of approximately 2:1. The discrepancy of results may be due to the ethnic and geographic differences in the background of the studied patients 22.

The majority of the examined patients reported that the first sign of the disease was oral onset (60%), followed by simultaneous appearance on the skin and oral mucosa(30%) and isolated cutaneous lesions (10%), findings supported by other scientific publications18,19,20,21. To Scully et al.29 the oral mucosa is almost always affected in patients with PV, and in 50- 70% of the cases it is the first site to be involved. The authors add that such manifestations are the most resistant to the applied therapeutics, antecipating cutaneous lesions in months or even years.

Concerning the clinical characteristics and distribution of intraoral PV, lesions had an ulcer form, and the most common site was the jugal mucosa, followed by the palatum. Shamim et al.22 explain that the predominance of ulcerative forms is due to minor traumas that are frequent in the oral cavity and also to the thin covering of the bullae that are formed on the mucosa, which causes the rupture of them.

In this research the phemphigoid group presented only 1 patient with a diagnosis of bullous pemphigoid without oral lesion, which did not allow us to draw conclusions about the prevalence as far as sex, age and clinical forms are concerned.



According to the resultas found it can be concluded that:

• The dermatologic diseases studied frequently occur in the oral cavity;

• Among them, lichen planus was the disease that presented a higher frequency of oral manifestations;

• The knowledge of these pathologies by the dental surgeon is of fundamental importance as he/she is responsible for an early diagnosis and for providing adequate treatment;

• The intraoral exam shoud be incorporated to the routine of dermatologic assistance as the oral manifestations can represent preliminary signs or can coexist with the diseases.



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Mailing Address:
Letícia Machado Gonçalves
Rua 40, Quadra 52, Casa 05 - Bequimão
65062-660 São Luís - MA
Tel./Fax: 98 8862 9161

Received on August 14th, 2009.
Approved by the Peer Review Board and accepted for publication on January 20th, 2010.
Conflict of interest: None / Conflito de interesse: Nenhum
Financial Support / Suporte financeiro: Student research initiation grant provided by The Maranhão Foundation for the Support of Research and Scientific and Technological Development (FAPEMA), São Luís, MA, Brazil.



* This study was carried out at the Department of Dermatology, Presidente Dutra Teaching Hospital, Federal University of Maranhão, São Luís, MA, Brazil.

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