Noma is a type of gangrene that destroys mucous membranes of the mouth and other tissues. It occurs in malnourished children in areas where sanitation and cleanliness are lacking.
Cancrum oris; Gangrenous stomatitis
The exact cause is unknown, but noma may be due to a certain kind of bacteria.
This disorder most often occurs in young, severely malnourished children between the ages of 2 to 5. Often they have had an illness such as measles, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, or cancer. They may also have a weakened immune system.
Risk factors include:
Noma causes sudden tissue destruction that rapidly gets worse. First, the gums and lining of the cheeks become inflamed and develop sores (ulcers). The ulcers develop a foul-smelling drainage, causing bad breath and skin odor.
The infection spreads to the skin, and the tissues in the lips and cheeks die. This can eventually destroy the soft tissue and bone. The destruction of the bones around the mouth causes deformity of the face and loss of teeth.
Noma can also affect the genitals, spreading to the genital skin (this is sometimes called noma pudendi).
Antibiotics and proper nutrition helps stop the disease from getting worse. Plastic surgery may be necessary to remove destroyed tissues and reconstruct facial bones. This will improve facial appearance and the function of the mouth and jaw.
In some cases, this condition can be deadly if it is not treated. Other times, the condition may heal over time, even without treatment. However, it can cause severe scarring and deformity.
These complications can occur:
Medical care is needed if mouth sores and inflammation occur and persist or get worse.
Improving nutrition, cleanliness, and sanitation may help.
Published Date: April 14, 2021
Published By: Charles I. Schwartz, MD, FAAP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, General Pediatrician at PennCare for Kids, Phoenixville, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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