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Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome: A Case Study

Info: 2952 words (12 pages) Nursing Case Study
Published: 12th Feb 2020

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  • Dr. Shruti Bohra
  • Dr Pratik B Kariya
  • Dr Seema Bargale



Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (MRS) classically shows a triad of orofacial swelling, fissured tongue and facial palsy, more commonly the oligosymptomatic form. The orofacial swelling is characterized by fissured, reddish-brown, swollen, nonpruritic lips or firm edema of the face. The facial palsy is indistinguishable from Bell’s palsy. The least common feature is fissured tongue, although seen in one third to one half of patients but when present it assists in the diagnosis. The histologic finding of MRS includes noncaseating, sarcoidal granulomas, not invariably but their absence does not exclude the diagnosis. All these findings together provoke the careful search for provocative causes for the reactive symptom complex of the Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.

Key words: Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome. chelitis granulomatosa, facial palsy, fissured tongue.


Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome is considered to be a rare syndrome. Hornstein- estimated the incidence to be 0.08%.1MRS is a non-caseating granulomatous disease showing (complete or incomplete form) a triad of facial paralysis, orofacial oedema and fissured tongue (scrotal tongue, lingua plicata, or furrowed tongue). Orofacial swelling is the most consistent and dominant feature of the Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome. In a review of 200 patients diagnosed with Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, it was the most frequent initial presenting sign.2Most commonly the lips are affected, with the swelling sometimes confined only to the lips. Cheilitis granulomatosa (or granulomatous cheilitis) is achronic inflammatory granulomatous swelling of the lip, which is referred as Miescher cheilitis which is generally regarded as a monosymptomatic form of the Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.3 Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome usually presents in a monosymptomatic or oligosymptomatic form. Around 200 cases are reported in a review of Zimmer et al2, we hereby report an additional case.

Case report:

A 16 year old female patient reported to dental OPD with the chief complaint of generalized gingival enlargement as well as swelling in upper and lower lip since 8-9 months. Patient was apparently alright 9 months back when she had an episode of fever which lasted for 8 days and subsided with medication taken from a local clinician. It was followed by episodes of remission & exacerbation of gingival enlargement with swelling of upper lip with pus discharge and bleeding to touch since 8-9 months. Then patient was referred to the department of oral pathology for needful.

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On examination face was bilaterally asymetrical with swelling of face on right side. Both upper and lower lips were swollen (markedly swollen upper lip) (Fig: 1). On palpation the swelling had normal temperature, was not painful, and was nonpitting and rubbery in consistency. Face was flattened on left side. Mandible was deviating on right side on opening of mouth. On intraoral examination generalized gingival enlargement was noticed which was covering cervical 1/3rd of almost all the teeth present in the oral cavity (Fig: 2). Teeth preset were incisors to second molars in all four quadrants. The tongue had deep grooves and fissures. A long & prominent central groove was evident on the dorsum of the tongue going in a straight line with numerous small grooves and fissures running laterally from the middle third of the tongue (Fig: 3).

An initial diagnosis of angioedema was made. Diphenhydramine hydrochloride, 100 mg, was administered intramuscularly followed by a course of diphenhydramine hydrochloride, 50 mg orally, four times a day. After 24 hours no noticeable reduction in facial swelling was evident. Therefore, re-evaluation of the diagnosis was necessary.

As a result of this history, recurrent cheilitis granulomatosa consistent with Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (MRS) was added to the differential diagnosis. A biopsy specimen of the affected lip area was sent for histopathologic examination, confirming the final diagnosis of MRS. On histopathological examination the mucosa consisted of parakeratinized, hyperplastic, stratified squamous epithelium overlying collagenous connective tissue. Within the connective tissue there were discrete aggregations of lymphocytes, generally with a perivascular distribution; however, some bad central foci of histiocytes consistent with granulomatous lesions. The histologic findings were consistent with cheilitis granulomatosa. (Fig: 4)

Treatment consisted of application of lip gloss to prevent cracking of the exposed mucosa. No further treatment was deemed necessary except continuation of his regular biannual preventive recall appointments.


Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (MRS) classically shows a triad of orofacial swelling, fissured tongue and facial palsy. Oligosymptomatic form of this syndrome is more common one of the example is Miescher cheilitis.3Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome may often go undiagnosed for some day as in present case.

History states that Rossolino in 1901 was the first to describe a particular association of oedema of the face, facial nerve palsy and scrotal tongue, the syndrome was named after Melkersson and Rosenthal.4 In 1928, Ernst Melkersson, a Swedish physician, described a 35-year-old woman with facial edema and paralysis. Shortly after, in 1931, Curt Rosenthal, a German neurologist, described 3 patients who had fissured or plicated tongues in addition to orofacial swelling and facial palsies and proposed a link between the triad of symptoms. Subsequently, the triad of clinical findings came to be known as the Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.

Although MRS is reported as commonly found during the second to fourth decades of life, there are many published reports of MRS in children and preadolescents, Roseman et al 7 described a case of MRS in a 7-year-old girl, Cohen et al 8 described four cases of MRS in children younger than the age of 11 years, and Yuzuk et al 9 described the case of a 13-year-old girl who presented with the oligosymptomatic form orlabial edema coupled with fissured tongue. Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome does not appear to have an obvious predilection for either sex, although

Some claim that it is slightly more common in females. 6,7,8 No particular racial predilection has been noted in MRS.

Etiology of this disease remains largely unknown. 10 In granulomatous cheilitis normal lip architecture is altered by presence oflymphoedemaand noncaseating granulomas in the lamina propria.TH1 immunocytes produceinterleukin12 and RANTES/MIP-1alpha and granulomas.Expressionof protease-activatedreceptor1 and 2 occurs in orofacial granulomatosis (OFG).HLA typingmay show HLA-A2 or HLA-A11.11

Pathogenesis of MRS was suggested by Hornstien.1 He suggested that abnormal regulation of the autonomic nervous system leads to excessive permeability of the facial cutaneous vessels. From this abnormal circulation, nonspecific antigens then stimulate the perivascular cells to form

granulomas. Obstruction of perivascular vessels by granuloma has been proposed as a causative factor in the swelling. 1

Initially, a patient with MRS usually complains of painless facial swelling that has persisted for a long time. Further investigation may reveal a history of previous episodes of swelling associated with facial paralysis or fissured tongue that the patient has never connected.

The most common symptom of MRS is recurring orofacial swelling in which the upper lip is more often affected. Other areas affected by orofacial swelling in MRS in order of frequency, are cheek, nose, eyelid, alveolar process, and chin.2,12

Zimmer et al 2 reported orofacial manifestations in 42 patients with MRS who were examined at their clinic: they also reviewed 220 cases reported in the literature between 1965 and 1990. They found that 82% of patients presented with labial swelling, 40% had swelling in other parts of the face, not including the lip, 24% had Bells palsy, and 59% had fissured tongue. Other areas of intraoral swelling were, in order of frequency, the gingiva ( 11 % ), buccal mucosa ( 16% ) palate (8%). and tongue (7%).

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The swelling of the face and lip is described as recurrent, nontender, nonpitting, and firm, but not of hard consistency. The orofacial swelling is usually sudden and, in most cases, precedes facial paralysis by weeks, months, and even years. 2, 5, 6. First episodeof edema sometimes accompanied by fever and mild constitutional symptoms (as seen in present case e.g. headache, visual disturbance) usually subsides completely in hours or days. Recurrences can range from days to years, each recurrent episode lasts longer and is more pronounced, and swelling may ultimately become permanent. 2,5,6

The facial paralysis associated with MRS is frequently indistinguishable from Bell’s palsy. The site affected by paralysis usually corresponds to the site of swelling. As in the present case with facial swelling, the paralysis is on right side. Each recurring episode is more profound and lasts longer. 6,13,14 Other neurologic presentations associated with MRS are altered taste, migraine headaches, and trigeminal neuralgia.2,5,6,13,15

Fissured tongue ( eg. lingual plicata) is usually found at birth and therefore considered an incidental finding of MRS. Nevertheless, fissured tongue is ten times more likely to be found among individuals diagnosed with MRS than in the general population. 2, 6, 15. Miyashita et al 16 described MRS in a 56-year-old woman, who was afflicted with cheilitis granulomatosa

caused by lingual candidiasis of a fissured tongue.

The edematous lesion, on histopathologic investigation, is a noncaseating epithelial cell granuloma with perivascular mononucleated lymphocytic infiltrate. Fibrosis of the granulomas is typical in long-term and recurrent lesions. 1,2,17

Differential diagnosis includes Crohn’s disease, sarcoidosis, Ascher’s syndrome, and allergic angioedema, leprosy, tuberculosis.1,5,15,17,18,19

In Lab studies Serum angiotensin-converting enzymetestmay be performed to help exclude sarcoidosis.Reactions to metals, food additives, or other oral antigens are excluded by using Patch tests which may be associated with some cases of granulomatous. 20 If found positive they are advised to avoid the allergen. Imaging studies like gastrointestinaltractendoscopy, radiography, and biopsy may be used to differentiate from Crohn disease. Chest radiography or gallium orpositron emission tomography(PET) scanning may be found helpful in excluding sarcoidosis and tuberculosis. Orthopentamogram (OPG) helps in ruling out presence of a chronic dental abscess.

A final diagnosis of MRS is made from the clinical history and histopathologic assessment of the edematous tissue, which usually includes the lip. When biopsy of the edematous tissue is difficult or not warranted, then a history of recurrent idiopathic facial swelling associated with atleast one of the following two entities, idiopathic facial paralysis (ie. Bell’s palsy) or fissured tongue, is sufficient to make a positive diagnosis of MRS.

Treatment of MRS is aimed at the facial swelling and the paralysis. Because the etiology and pathogenesis of MRS are not well understood, treatment continues to be empirical and, in most cases, unsuccessful. Fortunately, both the swelling and the paralysis are selflimiting and usually go into remission on their own. Treatment with oral prednisone or nerve decompression has been shown to be effective.1,5,6 Treatment with oral prednisone or nerve decompression has been shown to be effective.5 Also, interlesional injections with triamcinolone hexacetonide suspension have been shown to provide temporary benefit.12 Plastic surgery may be considered in the case of permanent fibrotic lesions.

Nevertheless, thorough documentation by many dentists eventually allowed MRS to be included in the differential diagnosis. This case highlights the importance of good history taking, regular follow-up and thorough documentation for proper patient management.


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Figure legends:

  1. Figure no 1) extraoral photograph showing swollen upper and lower lips.
  2. Figure no 2) intraoral photograph showing generalized gingival enlargement
  3. Figure no 3) intraoral photograph showing deep grooves on dorsal surface of tongue
  4. Figure no 4) photograph showing histological presentation of chilitis glanduralis at low power (10X) and high power (40X)

Learning ponts

  1. Concomitant presence of orofacial swelling, fissured tongue and facial palsy or any one of them may be a case of Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (MRS).
  2. A final diagnosis of MRS is made from the clinical history and histopathologic assessment of the edematous tissue.
  3. Melkersson–Rosenthal syndrome may recur intermittently and can become a chronic disorder.


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