Morbihan disease

Author: Dr Olivia Charlton, Resident Medical Officer, St George Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia. DermNet NZ Editor in Chief: A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand. Copy editor: Gus Mitchell. October 2017.

What is Morbihan disease?

Morbihan disease was first described in 1957 by French dermatologist Robert Degos, and is characterised by a firm oedema on the upper portion of the face. Although generally considered as a refractory and chronic form of rosacea, Morbihan disease may exist in the absence of other features of rosacea, and thus may represent a separate disease process.

Who gets Morbihan disease?

Morbihan disease usually affects Caucasians in the third and fourth decade of life.

There are only two reports of the disease in skin of colour [1]. It is more common in women than men.

What causes Morbihan disease?

The lymphoedema of Morbihan disease follows the loss of lymph vessel wall integrity and transudation of fluid. [3,4] The cause is unknown, but possible causes have been speculated, such as:

What are the clinical features of Morbihan disease? 

Morbihan disease is characterised by erythema and solid, non-pitting oedema.

What are the complications of Morbihan disease?

Persistent facial oedema leads to:

How is Morbihan disease diagnosed?

There are no biochemical or histopathologic findings specific to Morbihan disease.

Biopsy should be conducted to rule out other diagnoses. Nonspecific histopathology findings include:

Patch testing may also be arranged to exclude allergic contact dermatitis.

What is the differential diagnosis for Morbihan disease?

Differential diagnosis includes other granulomatous and inflammatory facial conditions [8,9].

What is the treatment for Morbihan disease?

Morbihan disease is frequently refractory to treatment.

Medical treatments

The antibiotics metronidazole and tetracyclines, minocycline and doxycycline are effective for inflammatory rosacea. Other options are:

Thalidomide, clofazimine and systemic corticosteroids such as prednisone are typically ineffective.

Destructive therapies 

Surgical excision of redundant edematous tissue may be required for a full recovery. Other options are:

Other therapies

Facial massage can be used to improve lymphatic drainage. Contact irritants or allergens should be avoided to aid recovery.

Related information

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