Also known as cancrum oris, noma is the death of tissue in the cheeks and lips due to a bacterial infection. The condition is mainly confined to young, extremely malnourished children in developing countries. Noma can also arise in the final stages of leukaemia (cancer of the blood).
The initial symptoms are inflammation of the inner surface of the gums and cheeks. Without treatment this leads to extreme ulceration ( with an unpleasant smelling discharge), eventual destruction of the bones surrounding the mouth, and loss of teeth. Healing comes naturally after a certain time, but scarring can be bad.
Antibiotic drugs and better nutrition can stop the diseases progression. Plastic surgery can be used to reconstruct damaged bones or to better the facial appearance.