What Is Noma Disease?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 May 2020
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Noma disease is a potentially fatal medical condition that normally begins as a gum infection and can cause extreme tissue destruction involving the face. This condition is most prevalent in developing countries, and children are the most likely to be affected. Early symptoms of noma disease usually involve gum discoloration and the formation of one or more ulcers inside the mouth. The ulcer then grows larger or deeper and may reach the bone as tissue death begins to spread. Treatment for noma disease involves surgery as well as any life-support measures deemed necessary, including breathing assistance and tube feeding.

Poverty, malnutrition, and poor dental hygiene are the most common contributing factors to the development of noma disease. Children who live in areas where poor sanitation practices exist are at a higher risk of developing this condition. Certain illnesses, such as typhoid or whooping cough, may also increase susceptibility to noma disease.

Symptoms of the disease often begin with bad breath and the production of an excessive amount of salivation. The gums and surrounding tissues may then start to take on a gray-colored appearance. A type of sore known as an ulcer tends to develop as the condition progresses.

After the ulcer develops, noma disease can rapidly become medically devastating. Tissue death begins to occur and can spread from the mouth to the nose, cheeks, and bones. While this process is usually painless, it can prove fatal if not treated adequately and quickly. Hospitalization is almost always required in order to treat this disease.

A combination of antibiotics is typically given in an effort to slow tissue death. A small tube known as an IV catheter may be inserted into a vein so that the antibiotics and any additional medications can be delivered directly into the bloodstream. Fluids may be given through the IV as well to guard against dehydration.

Depending on the severity of the damage to the face, the patient may need help breathing. This may include the delivery of extra oxygen into the lungs or, in the more severe cases, a machine may be used to do most or all of the breathing until normal respiratory capacity is restored. The patient may need to be fed through a tube if the ability to chew or swallow has been diminished. Corrective or cosmetic surgery is often needed due to the disfigurement left behind by the effects of noma disease.


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