The mouth (also called the buccal cavity) is used for initial digestion. Chewing and mixing of food takes place in this cavity without which a person may not be able to take in enough nutrition to fuel the processes needed for daily life. The other primary use for these structures is communication. With out properly function of the mouth a person is without means of sustenance or interaction with their caretakers and physician.
Erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis is often viewed as a spectrum or progression of dermatologic drug reaction. The reaction is delayed in that the condition is usually noticed one to three weeks after exposure to the medication. Erythema multiforme begins as an undefined rash or reddening of the skin and mucus membranes. This may progress onto purpuric macules and even onto skin necrosis and detachment of the epidermis. The oral mucuos membranes are involved in about half of the cases and anemia may be seen in a third of cases. In the end, these conditions are self limiting with some cases ending in death. Treatment includes withdrawal of the offending agent(s) and supportive care.(Bologna et al.)
The candida species are normal flora that inhabit the body’s surface, especially in the moist folds. Any lacerations therefore may become infected with candiasis. In the oral cavity, this infection manifests as white areas that may lead to ulceration. The elderly patient may be at increased risk because of poor denture care, comorbidities such as diabetes, or chronic need for antibiotics. The patient usually presents with dysphagia or odynophagia secondary to inflammation. The infection may progress to involve the respiratory tract, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and vagina, indicating the degree of immune dysfunction. Even after successful treatment recurrence is common. Chronic treatment is needed in some cases as well as correction of underlying causes, if possible. (Bologna et al.)
While the herpes viruses are distinct, it is possible to be coinfected or experience herpes related symptoms in areas other than around the oral cavity. As the elderly person ages the general decline of their immune system is often thought to leave them susceptible to infections. These conditions are associated with severe pain during manifestations. (Cobbs et al.)
This condition not only indicates possibility of HIV, it also may herald infection with the Epstein-Barr virus or declining immune function for any reason. Often in geriatric patients HIV progress more rapidly and early recognition of disease may improve the outcomes. (Greenspan S13-17)
Leukemia accounts for only 2.5% of malignancies in the US. While elderly patients are often found to have cytopenia of some sort it should not be thought of as the natural progression of age. Often evaluation uncovers a disease process that accounts for a peripheral blood finding. Myelodysplastic syndromes are characterized by abnormal marrow maturation and cytopenia. MDS is most common in men in their 70s to 80s and the incidence is as common as chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Treatment for these disorders in the geriatric patient is a topic of much debate due to fatal complications. (Bologna et al.)
Behcet&apos;s disease is a rare, chronic inflammatory disorder. An autoimmune disease that results from damage to blood vessels throughout the body, particularly veins the cause of Behcet&apos;s disease is unknown, although there have been reports of a virus found in some individuals with the disease. Behcet&apos;s disease generally begins when individuals are in their 20s or 30s, although it can happen at any age. . Most symptoms of the disease are caused by vasculitis (an inflammation of the blood vessels). (NINDS Behcet&apos;s Disease Information Page)
Sjogren&apos;s syndrome often accompanies other autoimmune disorders — rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and others. These rheumatic diseases are marked by inflammation of your connective tissues, and it&apos;s common for people with Sjogren&apos;s syndrome to also have a connective tissue disorder. In this particular disorder the healthy tissues of the eyes and salivary glands are attacked resulting eventually in dry mouth, dental caries, dry eyes, and corneal ulcers. (NINDS Sjogren&apos;s Syndrome Information Page)
Diabetes mellitus is a syndrome in which either not enough insulin is secreted from the pancreas to utilize glucose or the cells do not respond adequately to the presence of insulin to utilize glucose. Therefore the level of glucose is abnormally high in turn causing many long term ill effects. (McCance and Huether)
Amyloidosis is a heterogenous group of disorders that involve amyloid protein deposition in organs, effectually causing the dysfunction of the organ systems involved. Both types one and two of amyloid may be involved and the patterns that may be seen under inspection may shed some light on tissue distribution. Mixed patterns are common however and may make prediction of involvement may therefore be obscured. (Edwards)
Iron deficiency is the most common form of anemia. In younger patients, IDA may result from lack of iron in the diet. The elderly patient usually suffers from IDA resulting from chronic inflammation from some comorbidity. When working up a patient for anemia, it is very important to rule out nutritional iron insufficiency. The tests for transferrin or total iron binding capacity may help determine etiology. Occult blood loss or nutritional iron deficit should be ruled out before costly supplementation of erythropoetin. (Cobbs et al)
The underlying disorder in pernicious anemia is the absence of intrinsic factor, an enzyme necessary for absorption of dietary vitamin B12. Congenital deficiency in secretion of intrinsic factor, gastric bypass, and partial or total gastrectomy are some of the primary causes of pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia is also associated with autoimmune disorders. Neurologic manifestations may follow neuronal death and these complications cause a serious threat because they are not reversible even with treatment. Untreated pernicious anemia is fatal, usually due to right sided heart failure. Conventionally, oral replenishment of vitamin b12 was ruled out on the basis that there was no intrinsic factor, however it seems that there is a secondary mechanism for absorption. In order to utilize this mechanism it is necessary to give much larger doses than the 100mcg intramuscularly once a month that is recommended. (Cobbs et al)
Folate is necessary for erythrocyte production and maturation. The mechanisms that cause the impaired DNA synthesis and erythrocyte destruction are not fully understood although folate coenzymes the synthesis of purines and pyrimidines of the four DNA and RNA bases. Many of the manifestations of pernicious anemia and folate deficiency are very similar save the neurological symptoms. If neurological symptoms are present they may be attributed to a thiamine deficiency, which frequently accompanies folate deficiency). Treatment of folate deficiency usually requires one milligram per day. The symptoms of this deficiency lasts for about 1 to 2 weeks after treatment begins. (Cobbs et al)
(McCance and Huether)
Oral Manifestations of
Systemic Diseases in Older
Dr shabeel pn
• Review pertinent oropharangeal
structure and function.
• Examine the relationships
between oral symptoms and
• Discuss clinical decisions
pertaining to the topic.
The mouth (buccal cavity) is the
reservoir for the chewing and
mixing of food with saliva. It is
the primary site of digestion and
respiration as well as the primary
Gingivitis-inflammation of the gums
Xerostomia-abnormal dryness of the
mouth due to insufficient secretions
Mucositis-inflammation of a mucous
Stomatitis-inflammation of the mouth
having various causes (as mechanical
trauma, allergy, vitamin deficiency, or
Cheilitis-inflammation of the lip
Glossitis-inflammation of the tongue
Drug Reactions- SJS and TEN
• Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic
epidermal necrolysis are rare, life-
threatening, drug induced reactions.
• 7 to 21 days after exposure purpuric and
erythematous macules evolve to skin
necrosis and epidermal detachment.
• Oral mucous membrane involvement
occurs in up to 50% of cases and may
impair ingestion of nutrition.
• Most commonly implicated in these
reactions are sulfonamides, penicillins,
phenytoin, and phylbutazone.
• Drug-induced neutropenia is typically
characterized by circular reddish ulcer
on the gingivae or areas of frequent
• Gingivitis and oral ulcers often occur
with chronic neutropenia also.
• Discontinuation of the inducing drug
usually results in resolution.
medications are the major
treatments associated with
stomatitis. Allergic reactions to
materials or certain metalloids
may also contribute.
• Candida albicans infection is most commonly
found in children. The infection is
characterized by white plaques or spots in the
mouth that lead to ulcers or painful cracking at
the corners of the mouth.
• The patient may experience dysphagia or
odynophagia as the first symptoms.
• Candidiasis therefore is a common indicator
of impaired immune function whether as in HIV
or for other reasons.
• Treatment includes topical nystatin or oral
fluconazole as indicated by site or causative
organism of infection.
Viral Infections- Herpes
• The herpes simplex viruses are
categorized as type 1(oral) and type 2
• The presentation of cold sores around
the mouth is usual but the viruses can
occur any place in the body that has
broken skin or mucosal surfaces.
• As high as 75% of adults will contract oral
herpes by the time they reach their 40s.
• Oral antivirals and pain medications are
recommended for treatment of overly
painful expressions of this condition.
• As previously discussed, often oral
candidiasis is the initial symptom with which
HIV patients present.
• However, hairy leukoplakia, named for its
corrugated appearance, is also seen as white
lesions or plaques in the oral cavity. The
epithelium is thickened, appears white, but is
• Treatment may be complicated by
comorbidites and these should be considered
when determining a treatment regimen with
• Infections, bruising, or
hemorrhage of the oral cavity
may be caused by
thrombocytopenia or leukopenia.
• Rarely, diffuse non-tender
gingival enlargment, overall pallor
of tissues due to anemia or
ulcerative gingivitis may be
• Behcet’s disease is a rare disorder mainly
affecting young men.
• While the disease affects multiple organ
systems, oral ulcerations reselmbling canker
sores present in 99% of patients.
• The oral lesions are the herald of this disease
and are usually 6mm or smaller and resolve
within 1-3 weeks.
• Treatment is symptomatic and supportive.
Medication may be prescribed to reduce
inflammation and/or regulate the immune
system. Immunosuppressive therapy may be
• Sjögren’s syndrome is the 2nd
autoimmune disease with women in their mid-60’s
being the primarily afflicted.
• Initial symptoms include dry eyes and dry mouth due
to gradual glandular dysfunction.
• In some cases, dysphagia, increased dental caries,
increased susceptibility to oral candidiasis, and
difficulty wearing dental prostheses will develop.
• Treatment is generally symptomatic and
supportive. Moisture replacement therapies may
ease the symptoms of dryness. Nonsteroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs may be used to treat
musculoskeletal symptoms. Corticosteroids or
immunosuppressive drugs may be considered in
• Increased glucose in the
patients’ system implies
hyperglycemia also in saliva.
• Bacteria find this environment
more conducive and therefore
these patients are more prone to
dental caries, gingivitis, and
• Disorder characterized by deposition
of insoluble proteins in organs that
eventually causes dysfunction of the
• This condition may present as swollen
erythematous buccal area if the
mucous membranes in that area are
involved in the disease process.
• Iron deficiency anemia is the most
common cause of anemia in older
patients and may manifest as
smoothing, reddening or soreness of
• Iron deficiency limits erythropoesis
and therefore brings about a
• In older patients anemia associated
with chronic inflammation is common.
Nutritional iron deficiency is rare in
• Pernicious anemia affects over 2% of
the population over 60.
• This disorder is clinically
characterized by megaloblastic
hematopoesis and/or neuropathies.
• Oral manifestation possibilities are
glossitis (beefy red tongue) or
stomatitis (generalized burning or
• Treatment with intramuscular or oral
Vitamin B12 should follow diagnosis.
• Thiamine (Vitamin B1) and
Niacin/nicotinic acid (Vitamin B3) are
also reported to cause some glossitis
• Folate deficiency leads to a
megaloblastic anemia that
demonstrates many of the same oral
characteristics of pernicious anemia.
– Cheilitis, glossitis, and mucosal erosions
have been described.
• Scurvy caused by vitamin C
deprivation may cause petechiae to
ecchymoses in the submucosa.
• Mucous membrane changes may lead
to gingival hypertrophy and erosive,
• Teeth may subsequently become soft
associated with gingival infection
• Replenishment of Vitamin C may
prevent further degradation of dental
• The mucosal surface that is the
oral cavity may provide insight
into the immune function of the
• Differential diagnosis is
important as many disorders may
manifest themselves similarly in
the buccal area.
Greenspan, JS. "Sentinelsand Signposts: the
Epidemiology and Significance of the Oral
Manifestations of HIV disease." Oral
Diseases May 1997: S13-17.
McCance, Kathryn L., and Sue E. Huether.
Pathophysiology The Biologiv Basis for
Disease in Adults and Children. 4th ed. St.
Louis: Mosby, 2002
Bologna, Jean L., Joseph L. Jorizzo, and
Ronald P. Rapini. Dermatology. Spain:
Edwards, Brooks S. Amyloidosis. 2 Aug.
2005. Mayo Clinic. 26 Dec. 2005
"NINDS Sjogren's Syndrome Information
Page." National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke. 11 Dec. 2005
"NINDS Behcet's Disease Information Page."
National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke. 11 Dec. 2005
Cobbs, Elizabeth L., Edmund H. Duthie, Jr,
and John B. Murphy. Geriatrics Review
Syllabus. 4th ed. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt
Publishing Company, 1999.
1. Many conditions may cause oral discomfort.
In an older patient with normal immune
function, what are parts of the work up are
the first priorities?
2. Describe the possible etiologies of oral
ulcerations that are whitish in color.
3. What is the treatment protocol for a patient
that manifests epidermal irritation following
initiation of a new regimen? What are the
most common causes of this reaction?
4. What work up would help determine the
correct cause of iron deficiency anemia?
5. Replenishment of cyanocobalamine is
accomplished by more than one route.
Describe the appropriate regimens and the
attributes and detriments of each.
6. Autoimmune diseases often appear with
accompanying conditions. Patients that
suffer Sjodgren’s disease often also
present with what other diseases?
7. What group of commonly used medications
are associated with gingival
• What is the etiology of the majority of genitoanal
herpes cases? How is this different from the
etiology of oral herpes found in the elderly
• A new patient reports with general malaise and
oral irritation. She is elderly and has many
comorbidities. What should the workup include?
What are the possibilities for differential
• The patient described in the previous question is
found to have low Hgb and Hct levels. Her
transferrin level is within normal limits. What other
lab(s) should be checked before a diagnosis of
anemia of chronic disease is made?
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