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Generalized severe epidermolysis bullosa simplex in Infant/Neonate
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Generalized severe epidermolysis bullosa simplex in Infant/Neonate

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Contributors: John Zampella MD, Jo-David Fine MD, MPH, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Epidermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS) is a heterogeneous group of inherited blistering disorders with 4 common subtypes. Of these, generalized severe EBS (EBS-gen/sev; formerly known as Dowling-Meara EBS [EBS-DM] and simplex herpetiformis) is one of the more severe generalized forms. EBS-gen/sev results from an autosomal dominant defect in the genes encoding either keratin-5 or -14, constituents of intermediate filaments that anchor the keratinocyte cytoskeleton to the desmosomal plaque. Disruption within cells of the basal layer of the epidermis occurs, leading to blister formation from even the slightest trauma.

In EBS-gen/sev, generalized blistering occurs, often with blisters in a grouped, herpetiform, arcuate, or serpiginous pattern. The oral mucosa is commonly involved during early infancy or the neonatal period, making feeding difficult. Localized atrophic scarring, milia, and nail dystrophy are commonly seen, especially as the child gets older, that may resemble dystrophic EB. In late childhood, repeated blistering of the palms and soles leads to the development of keratoderma, a characteristic finding. As in all other types and subtypes of inherited EB, blistering worsens during warmer weather. Curiously, EBS-gen/sev patients may have temporary improvement in skin disease activity during periods of high fever. Some patients with EBS-gen/sev may experience improvement in blister activity during mid-adulthood, and rarely some of these keratodermas may partially regress.

Extracutaneous complications often include blistering of the oral cavity. Progressive, potentially life-threatening occlusion of the upper airway as a result of repeated blistering at or above the level of the vocal cords has been reported. Contractures of the arms and legs may be seen as well as growth retardation and anemia, although the latter are uncommon. Most patients with EBS-gen/sev live a normal lifespan, with a minority of the most severely affected dying during early infancy from overwhelming sepsis or failure to thrive. Squamous cell carcinoma appears to be less of a concern in patients with EBS than in other forms of EB.

For more information, see OMIM.

Related topics: Kindler syndrome, EB acquisita, junctional EB


Q81.0 – Epidermolysis bullosa simplex

90496008 – Generalized epidermolysis bullosa simplex

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

History (including family history) and clinical findings in an older child with EB allows for reasonably accurate diagnosis and subclassification of EB subtype.

However, in the newborn period, it is often impossible to clinically distinguish among any of the 3 major EB subtypes (ie, simplex, junctional, and dystrophic).

This differential diagnosis may include:

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Last Reviewed: 12/09/2019
Last Updated: 01/30/2020
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Generalized severe epidermolysis bullosa simplex in Infant/Neonate
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Generalized severe epidermolysis bullosa simplex : Grouped configuration, Widespread
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