Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a general term referring to inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body's defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth, which may include sores. Stomatitis can be caused by infections, autoimmune disorders, allergic reactions, or exposure to irritants. The typical presentation may be either solitary or a group of painful oral lesions. The etiology of the lesion is diagnosed based on appearance and associated symptoms. Treatment involves symptomatic relief, but infectious causes may require antivirals/antibiotics and autoimmune etiologies may require steroid therapy.

Last update:

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Table of Contents

Share this concept:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

Overview

Definition

Stomatitis, sometimes called mucositis, is a broad term referring to inflammatory lesions of the oral mucosa of varied etiologies.

Etiology

  • Infectious:
    • Viral:
      • Herpes simplex virus Virus Viruses are infectious, obligate intracellular parasites composed of a nucleic acid core surrounded by a protein capsid. Viruses can be either naked (non-enveloped) or enveloped. The classification of viruses is complex and based on many factors, including type and structure of the nucleoid and capsid, the presence of an envelope, the replication cycle, and the host range. Virology: Overview ( HSV HSV Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the family Herpesviridae. Herpes simplex virus commonly causes recurrent infections involving the skin and mucosal surfaces, including the mouth, lips, eyes, and genitals. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2)
      • Herpes zoster Herpes Zoster Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a linear, double-stranded DNA virus in the Herpesviridae family. Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is more common in adults and occurs due to the reactivation of VZV. Varicella-Zoster Virus/Chickenpox
      • Coxsackievirus Coxsackievirus Coxsackievirus is a member of a family of viruses called Picornaviridae and the genus Enterovirus. Coxsackieviruses are single-stranded, positive-sense RNA viruses, and are divided into coxsackie group A and B viruses. Both groups of viruses cause upper respiratory infections, rashes, aseptic meningitis, or encephalitis. Coxsackievirus
    • Fungal: Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis
    • Bacteria Bacteria Bacteria are prokaryotic single-celled microorganisms that are metabolically active and divide by binary fission. Some of these organisms play a significant role in the pathogenesis of diseases. Bacteriology: Overview:
      • Mycoplasma Mycoplasma Mycoplasma is a species of pleomorphic bacteria that lack a cell wall, which makes them difficult to target with conventional antibiotics and causes them to not gram stain well. Mycoplasma bacteria commonly target the respiratory and urogenital epithelium. Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae), the causative agent of atypical or "walking" pneumonia. Mycoplasma
      • Syphilis Syphilis Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum pallidum (T. p. pallidum), which is usually spread through sexual contact. Syphilis has 4 clinical stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Syphilis
      • Gonorrhea Gonorrhea Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the gram-negative bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae). Gonorrhea may be asymptomatic but commonly manifests as cervicitis or urethritis with less common presentations such as proctitis, conjunctivitis, or pharyngitis. Gonorrhea
  • Chemotherapy related:
    • Cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents: 
      • Methotrexate
      • Cytarabine
      • Doxorubicin
      • Etoposide
      • Fluorouracil
    • Radiation
  • Autoimmune:
    • Irritable bowel disease (IBD)
    • Celiac disease Celiac disease Celiac disease (also known as celiac sprue or gluten enteropathy) is an autoimmune reaction to gliadin, which is a component of gluten. Celiac disease is closely associated with HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8. The immune response is localized to the proximal small intestine and causes the characteristic histologic findings of villous atrophy, crypt hyperplasia, and intraepithelial lymphocytosis. Celiac Disease 
    • Lupus
    • Stevens-Johnson syndrome Stevens-Johnson syndrome Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a cutaneous, immune-mediated hypersensitivity reaction that is commonly triggered by medications, including antiepileptics and antibiotics. The condition runs on a spectrum with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) based on the amount of body surface area (BSA) involved. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome ( SJS SJS Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a cutaneous, immune-mediated hypersensitivity reaction that is commonly triggered by medications, including antiepileptics and antibiotics. The condition runs on a spectrum with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) based on the amount of body surface area (BSA) involved. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome)
  •  Vascular:
    • Behcet’s disease
    • Kawasaki disease Kawasaki disease Kawasaki disease (KD), also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome or infantile polyarteritis, is a medium-sized necrotizing febrile vasculitis that affects children < 5 years of age. Multiple systems are involved but the most serious is the predilection of the coronary arteries. Kawasaki Disease
  • Mechanical irritation:
    • Ill-fitting dentures or braces
    • Irregular fillings
  • Irritant exposure:
    • Oral hygiene products
    • Tobacco
    • Spicy, hot, or acidic food
  • Nutritional:
    • Iron deficiency
    • Zinc deficiency
  • Idiopathic: aphthous ulcers

Diagnosis

Given the varied etiology, a careful history and physical exam are essential to narrow the diagnosis. Laboratory testing can then confirm findings and clinical suspicion.

History

  • Timing of appearance of lesions: Recurrence suggests systemic illness.
  • Duration of symptoms
  • Presence of other family members currently with similar symptoms: Household outbreak suggests viral infection.
  • Immunization status
  • Associated factors:
    • Pain (lupus has painless oral ulcers)
    • Appearance of rash in other locations
    • New medication
    • Fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever
    • Weight loss
    • Diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea
    • Specific food intolerance
    • Other systemic symptoms

Physical exam

  • Description of lesions:
    • Appearance:
      • Solitary and discrete vs. multiple and widespread
      • Blistering (suggests HSV HSV Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the family Herpesviridae. Herpes simplex virus commonly causes recurrent infections involving the skin and mucosal surfaces, including the mouth, lips, eyes, and genitals. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2 or zoster)
      • Whitish (suggests Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis)
    • Location:
      • Inside cheeks
      • Gums
      • Tongue Tongue The tongue, on the other hand, is a complex muscular structure that permits tasting and facilitates the process of mastication and communication. The blood supply of the tongue originates from the external carotid artery, and the innervation is through cranial nerves. Oral Cavity: Lips and Tongue
      • Lips Lips The lips are the soft and movable most external parts of the oral cavity. The blood supply of the lips originates from the external carotid artery, and the innervation is through cranial nerves. Oral Cavity: Lips and Tongue
      • Palate Palate The palate is the structure that forms the roof of the mouth and floor of the nasal cavity. This structure is divided into soft and hard palates. Oral Cavity: Palate
  • Examination of other surfaces:
    • Mucosal:
      • Genital (Behcet’s disease, HSV HSV Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the family Herpesviridae. Herpes simplex virus commonly causes recurrent infections involving the skin and mucosal surfaces, including the mouth, lips, eyes, and genitals. Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2)
      • Gastrointestinal (IBD)
    • Cutaneous:
      • Palms and soles (coxsackievirus, Kawasaki disease Kawasaki disease Kawasaki disease (KD), also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome or infantile polyarteritis, is a medium-sized necrotizing febrile vasculitis that affects children < 5 years of age. Multiple systems are involved but the most serious is the predilection of the coronary arteries. Kawasaki Disease)
      • Face (malar rash seen with lupus)

Laboratory testing

  • Bacterial/viral culture
  • Blood work: complete blood count (CBC), iron, or vitamin levels
  • Biopsy of lesion if recurrent to rule out malignancy
Oral mucositis

Oral mucositis in a patient who has undergone radiotherapy

Image: “Radiation induced oral mucositis” by Ps SK, Balan A, Sankar A, Bose T. License: CC BY 2.0

Management

Management is focused on supportive care, pain Pain Pain has accompanied humans since they first existed, first lamented as the curse of existence and later understood as an adaptive mechanism that ensures survival. Pain is the most common symptomatic complaint and the main reason why people seek medical care. Physiology of Pain reduction, and prevention of secondary infection of the exposed oral mucosa while the underlying cause is treated.

  • Supportive care: Ensure appropriate nutrition and hydration (intravenous (IV) therapy may be necessary).
  • Pain reduction:
    • Oral anesthetics (lidocaine rinse)
    • Risks and benefits of opioid use must be carefully weighed.
  • Infection prevention:
    • Protective coatings of the oral mucosa
    • Prophylactic antibiotics
  • Treatment of underlying etiology:
    • Antivirals (acyclovir) for herpetic lesions
    • Nystatin “swish and swallow” liquid for Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis infections
    • Treatment of underlying autoimmune disease
    • Correct nutritional imbalances.
  • If ulcers persist for > 6 weeks, investigation (e.g., biopsy) should be conducted to rule out malignancy.

Clinical Relevance

  • Nutritional deficiency: deficiency of iron, zinc, vitamin B2, B3, B6, B9, or B12 due to dietary deficits or other pathologies resulting in malabsorption Malabsorption Malabsorption involves many disorders in which there is an inability of the gut to absorb nutrients from dietary intake, potentially including water and/or electrolytes. A closely related term, maldigestion is the inability to break down large molecules of food into their smaller constituents. Malabsorption and maldigestion can affect macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), or both. Malabsorption and Maldigestion and causing painful oral lesions. Treatment is supplementation of the deficient nutrient.
  • Aphthous stomatitis (most common): painful ulcers that are round or oval, crater-like in appearance, and on a yellow-gray base with erythematous margins. Mucosal ulcers are on non-keratinized mucosal surfaces (lesions on the perioral area exclude diagnosis of aphthous ulcer). The recurrence of ulcers is common and does not involve systemic symptoms. Aphthous stomatitis occurs after minimal trauma (e.g., tongue biting) and treatment is supportive.
  • Angular stomatitis: Saliva collects in corners of the mouth causing a buildup of microorganisms, such as Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis, Streptococcus Streptococcus Streptococcus is one of the two medically important genera of gram-positive cocci, the other being Staphylococcus. Streptococci are identified as different species on blood agar on the basis of their hemolytic pattern and sensitivity to optochin and bacitracin. There are many pathogenic species of streptococci, including S. pyogenes, S. agalactiae, S. pneumoniae, and the viridans streptococci. Streptococcus, or Staphylococcus Staphylococcus Staphylococcus is a medically important genera of Gram-positive, aerobic cocci. These bacteria form clusters resembling grapes on culture plates. Staphylococci are ubiquitous for humans, and many strains compose the normal skin flora. Staphylococcus, creating painful, ulcerative lesions. Risk factors include the use of a pacifier, dentures, or a face mask. Treatment includes antifungal or antibacterial topical agents and the prevention of chapped lips.
  • Oral candidiasis Candidiasis Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis (or thrush): presents as white plaques on oral mucosa that can be scraped off using a tongue depressor. Predisposing conditions include ill-fitting dentures, immunosuppression, and corticosteroid inhaler use. Oral candidiasis Candidiasis Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis is common in pediatrics, particularly in small children, and 90% of cases are due to Candida Candida Candida is a genus of dimorphic, opportunistic fungi. Candida albicans is part of the normal human flora and is the most common cause of candidiasis. The clinical presentation varies and can include localized mucocutaneous infections (e.g., oropharyngeal, esophageal, intertriginous, and vulvovaginal candidiasis) and invasive disease (e.g., candidemia, intraabdominal abscess, pericarditis, and meningitis). Candida/Candidiasis. Treatment is antifungal mouthwash.
  • Allergic or contact stomatitis: a Type IV hypersensitivity reaction Type IV hypersensitivity reaction Type IV hypersensitivity reaction, or delayed-type hypersensitivity, is a cell-mediated response to antigen exposure. The reaction involves T cells, not antibodies, and develops over several days. Presensitized T cells initiate the immune defense, leading to tissue damage. Type IV Hypersensitivity Reaction presenting as ulcerations on the mouth or tongue due to contact with an allergen. Common causes are flavorings, metals, or other components in oral hygiene products, foods, dental restorations, and medications. Treatment is the removal of the offending product and supportive care.
  • Autoimmune conditions: Stevens-Johnson syndrome Stevens-Johnson syndrome Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a cutaneous, immune-mediated hypersensitivity reaction that is commonly triggered by medications, including antiepileptics and antibiotics. The condition runs on a spectrum with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) based on the amount of body surface area (BSA) involved. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome ( SJS SJS Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a cutaneous, immune-mediated hypersensitivity reaction that is commonly triggered by medications, including antiepileptics and antibiotics. The condition runs on a spectrum with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) based on the amount of body surface area (BSA) involved. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome) is a serious disorder of the skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Structure and Function of the Skin and oral mucosa, usually from medication. And, Behcet’s disease is a rare disorder due to blood vessel inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body's defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation, causing sores on oral and urogenital mucosa. Various autoimmune disorders can involve oral mucosa but are usually associated with other systemic symptoms of disease.
  • Herpetic gingivostomatitis: presents with painful perioral vesicular lesions (clusters of small vesicles) caused by herpes simplex virus Virus Viruses are infectious, obligate intracellular parasites composed of a nucleic acid core surrounded by a protein capsid. Viruses can be either naked (non-enveloped) or enveloped. The classification of viruses is complex and based on many factors, including type and structure of the nucleoid and capsid, the presence of an envelope, the replication cycle, and the host range. Virology: Overview type 1 (HSV1). Herpetic gingivostomatitis is more common in children and usually occurs after the 1st exposure to the herpes virus Virus Viruses are infectious, obligate intracellular parasites composed of a nucleic acid core surrounded by a protein capsid. Viruses can be either naked (non-enveloped) or enveloped. The classification of viruses is complex and based on many factors, including type and structure of the nucleoid and capsid, the presence of an envelope, the replication cycle, and the host range. Virology: Overview, which is also responsible for cold sores and fever blisters. Treatment is supportive, but antivirals can be used.
  • Herpangina: common childhood illness often caused by a group A coxsackievirus. Oral lesions usually have a white base with a red border and may be very painful; lesions typically involve the posterior pharynx Pharynx The pharynx is a component of the digestive system that lies posterior to the nasal cavity, oral cavity, and larynx. The pharynx can be divided into the oropharynx, nasopharynx, and laryngopharynx. Pharyngeal muscles play an integral role in vital processes such as breathing, swallowing, and speaking. Pharynx. Herpangina presents as a prodrome of fever, anorexia, irritability, malaise, sleeplessness, and headache. Treatment is supportive.

References

  1. Peterson DE, Schubert MM. Oral toxicity. In: The Chemotherapy Source Book, 3rd ed, Perry MC (Ed), Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore 2001.
  2. O’Duffy JD. Behcet’s syndrome. In: Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases, 10th, Arthritis Foundation, Atlanta 1993. Vol 29, p.206.
  3. Edgar NR, Saleh D, Miller RA. Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Mar;10(3):26-36. Epub 2017 Mar 1. PMID: 28360966; PMCID: PMC5367879. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28360966/.
  4. Canavan TN, Mathes EF, Frieden I, Shinkai K. Mycoplasma pneumoniae-induced rash and mucositis as a syndrome distinct from Stevens-Johnson syndrome and erythema multiforme: a systematic review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015 Feb;72(2):239-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2014.06.026. PMID: 25592340. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25592340/.
  5. Cifuentes M, Davari P, Rogers RS 3rd. Contact stomatitis. Clin Dermatol. 2017 Sep-Oct;35(5):435-440. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2017.06.007. Epub 2017 Jun 24. PMID: 28916024. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28916024/.

USMLE™ is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB®) and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME®). MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). NCLEX®, NCLEX-RN®, and NCLEX-PN® are registered trademarks of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc (NCSBN®). None of the trademark holders are endorsed by nor affiliated with Lecturio.

Study on the Go

Lecturio Medical complements your studies with evidence-based learning strategies, video lectures, quiz questions, and more – all combined in one easy-to-use resource.

Learn even more with Lecturio:

Complement your med school studies with Lecturio’s all-in-one study companion, delivered with evidence-based learning strategies.

User Reviews

0.0

()

¡Hola!

Esta página está disponible en Español.

🍪 Lecturio is using cookies to improve your user experience. By continuing use of our service you agree upon our Data Privacy Statement.

Details