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Ocular Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid

(Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid, Ocular Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid, Cicatricial Pemphigoid; Ocular Cicatricial Pemphigoid; Benign Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid)

By

Melvin I. Roat

, MD, FACS, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

Last full review/revision Oct 2019| Content last modified Oct 2019
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Topic Resources

Ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid is a chronic, bilateral, progressive scarring and shrinkage of the conjunctiva with opacification of the cornea. Early symptoms are hyperemia and irritation; progression leads to eyelid and corneal damage and sometimes blindness. Diagnosis is sometimes confirmed by biopsy. Treatment often requires systemic immunosuppression.

Ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid is an autoimmune disease in which binding of anticonjunctival basement membrane antibodies results in conjunctival inflammation. It is unrelated to bullous pemphigoid.

Symptoms and Signs

Usually beginning as a chronic conjunctivitis with nonspecific hyperemia without discharge in certain quadrants, ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid progresses as follows:

  • Subconjunctival fibrosis

  • Conjunctival shrinkage with loss of the inferior fornix

  • Symblephara (adhesions between the tarsal and bulbar conjunctiva)

  • Trichiasis (in-turning eyelashes)

  • Corneal epithelial defects and bacterial corneal infection

  • Corneal neovascularization, opacification, keratinization, and blindness

Oral mucous membrane involvement with ulceration and scarring is common, but skin involvement, characterized by scarring bullae and erythematous plaques, is uncommon.

Diagnosis

  • Unexplained symblephara or biopsy findings

Diagnosis of ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid is suspected clinically in patients with conjunctival scarring plus corneal changes, symblephara, or both. The differential diagnosis of progressive conjunctival scarring includes previous radiation exposure and atopic disease. Therefore, the clinical diagnosis of cicatricial pemphigoid is made when there is progression of a symblepharon without a history of local radiation or severe perennial allergic conjunctivitis. Diagnosis can be confirmed by conjunctival biopsy showing linear antibody deposition on the basement membrane. A negative biopsy result does not rule out the diagnosis.

Treatment

  • Epilation of in-turning lashes

  • Often systemic immunosuppression

In people with ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid, tear substitutes and epilation, cryoepilation, or electroepilation of the in-turning eyelashes may increase comfort and reduce the risk of ocular infection, secondary corneal scarring, and decreased vision. For progressive trichiasis, conjunctival scarring, or corneal opacification or for nonhealing corneal epithelial defects, systemic immunosuppression (eg, with dapsone, methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil, cyclophosphamide, intravenous immunoglobulin [IVIG], or rituximab) is indicated.

Key Points

  • Ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid is a chronic, autoimmune scarring of the conjunctiva with opacification of the cornea.

  • Findings include symblephara (adhesions between the tarsal and bulbar conjunctiva); trichiasis (in-turning eyelashes); keratoconjunctivitis sicca; corneal neovascularization, opacification, and keratinization; and conjunctival shrinkage and keratinization.

  • Diagnosis is usually by finding a progressive symblepharon in a patient without a history of local radiation or severe perennial allergic conjunctivitis.

  • Treatment can include tear substitutes, epilation of in-turning lashes, and often systemic immunosuppression.

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