by Jason Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC
May 16, 2023
Acute mucositis means inflammation of the tissue that covers the inside surface of the oral cavity which includes the lips, tongue, buccal mucosa (cheeks), gingiva (gums), floor of mouth, and palate. The tissue that covers the inside of the oral cavity is called mucosa and acute means that the inflammation is active or ongoing. Another name for this condition is stomatitis.
Common causes of acute mucositis include:
Symptoms of mucositis include red or white patches in the mouth, pain, bleeding, and ulceration.
The diagnosis of mucositis is typically made after your oral cavity is examined by your doctor a small sample of tissue is sent to a pathologist for examination under the microscope.
The inside of the oral cavity is covered by a thin layer of tissue called mucosa. The surface of the mucosa is lined by specialized squamous cells which form a barrier called the epithelium. The epithelium sits on a type of connective tissue called the lamina propria. In acute mucositis, immune cells called neutrophils are typically seen in the epithelium and in the lamina propria. The squamous cells in the epithelium often show a change that pathologists describe as reactive atypia. This means that the cells look abnormal but are non-cancerous. When the condition is caused by an infection, microorganisms such as fungi may be seen on or within the epithelium. A special test called immunohistochemistry may also be performed to help identify viruses such as herpes simplex virus (HSV).