30: Submucous fibrosis

Submucous fibrosis


The basic issue in OMSF appears to be an increase in submucosal collagen, for which there may be some genetic predisposition. Patients have an increased frequency of HLA-A10, HLA-B7, and HLA-DR3. Further, the HLA class I chain-related gene A (MICA), particularly the phenotype frequency of allele A6 of MICA is increased in OSMF, expressed by keratinocytes and other epithelial cells and interacts with gamma/delta T cells in the submucosa. Increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reduced antifibrotic interferon gamma may be central to the pathogenesis.

The lesions of OSMF appear to arise due to exposure to areca nut constituents which act by increasing collagen cross-linking or other effects. One betel nut alkaloid, arecoline, stimulates production of:

Arecoline inhibits matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs – particularly MMP-2), and chewing areca quid may also activate NF-κB expression, thereby further stimulating collagen fibroblasts. Flavonoids, catechin, tannin and possibly copper in betel nuts may cause collagen fibres to cross-link, making them less susceptible to collagenase degradation.


OSMF can affect the oral and sometimes pharyngeal mucosa, and develops insidiously, usually diffusely, often initially presenting with oral burning sensations, and a non-specific vesicular stomatitis. Later symmetrical fibrosis of the cheeks, lips, tongue or palate appears as vertical bands running through the mucosa, and oral opening becomes restricted (Table 30.1). The fibrosis can become so severe that the affected site appears white and becomes firm, and severely restricts mouth opening and tongue and/or palate mobility (Fig. 30.1).

Table 30.1

Grading of OMSF severity

Grade Features
1 Oral opening > 35 mm
2 Oral opening 20–35 mm
3 Oral opening < 20 mm
4 Oral opening < 20 mm + PMD
5 Oral opening < 20 mm + OSCC

PMD, potentially malignant disorder; OSCC, oral squamous cell carcinoma.

After Kerr et al 2011.

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Jan 9, 2015 | Posted by in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology | Comments Off on 30: Submucous fibrosis

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