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  • Review Article

Bullous Autoimmune Diseases of the Oral Mucosa


Autoimmune bullous diseases (AIBD) are characterized by autoantibodies targeted against adhesion molecules, impairing their formation. According to localization criteria, pemphigus (intraepidermal blister and desmosomal involvement) and pemphigoid (subepidermal blister and dermoepidermal junction involvement) can be distinguished. In two-thirds of the cases, pemphigus vulgaris begins with oral lesions (mainly the buccal mucosa and palate, rarely the gingiva). Skin lesions are usual. Excepting paraneoplastic pemphigus (a recently individualized entity), oral lesions are uncommon in other types of pemphigus. Cicatricial pemphigoid mainly involves oral mucosa, frequently other mucous membranes, and rarely the skin. Gingival involvement is frequent. In case of desquamative gingivitis, the clip sign gives the diagnosis of cicatricial pemphigoid. Ocular involvement is frequent and causes blindness. Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita and IgA linear dermatosis are rare. Bullous pemphigoid and bullous lupus rarely involve the oral mucosa. Diagnosis of AIBD requires a biopsy within the mucosal membrane lesion for pathology examination and another biopsy in a lesion-free area for direct immunofluorescence detection of antibody fixation. Immunoelectron microscopy or immunoblast transfer may be needed for positive diagnosis. Corticosteroids are used to treat pemphigus and dapsone is used for cicatricial pemphigoid. Immunosuppressive therapy is rarely needed.