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What Is Melkersson Rosenthal Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome is a medical condition that has no known cause. This disease affects the nervous system and causes paralysis of muscles in the face, among other symptoms. Although genetics might play a role in the condition, it often occurs in sufferers of Crohn's disease or sarcoidosis.

People who have Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome typically first experience problems as a child or as a young teenager. The muscles of the face become paralyzed, and swelling occurs in facial tissue — the upper lip, in particular. The tongue can become ridged and develop folds.

"Scrotal tongue" is another term for this ridged tongue condition. If the tongue surface is deeply grooved, acid or spice in foods might give the tongue a feeling of burning. With extreme cases that have very deep ridges, infection can occur, or food can become stuck. The person's breath might smell bad as a result.

Usually, these symptoms resolve themselves, but another attack could occur. Repeated swelling over the span of new attacks might become permanent. With time, the swelling also can get worse and more obvious. The affected lip can develop ridges and an unusual brownish coloring and might be hard to the touch.

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Although Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome is not curable, the symptoms of the disease can be controlled using drugs. The swelling of the face can be improved through steroids and other medications that reduce inflammation. Treatments such as tissue massage or electrotherapy might also benefit the appearance of the face. Surgery on the affected nerves and inflamed tissue is possible — and sometimes prescribed — but the benefits of this surgery had not been proved as of 2011.

This syndrome is associated with the presence of other diseases. These diseases are autoimmune, which means that they are caused by the body attacking its own cells. Crohn's disease is one such condition. It is a digestive disorder in which the lining of the intestines is inflamed, problems in producing stools happen, and various issues such as inflammation of the liver or even of the eye can occur.

Sarcoidosis is another autoimmune condition in which various parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes or the lungs, become swollen. Both of these conditions might display Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome as part of the symptoms. The underlying reasons for the symptoms of Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome were unknown as of 2011. Particular gene types might, however, dictate who develops Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome and who doesn't.

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