Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Angular Cheilitis?
This is referring to an inflammatory lesion that occurs at the corner of your mouth. It is also known by three other names which are angular perleche, angular stomatitis, and angular cheilosis. These words refer to “chapping or drying out.” If it is a severe case it can cause slitting or cracking of the lip.
When a person has a mild case of angular cheilitis it seems to happen in the winter and is often exacerbated by the wetting of the lips on a continual basis. Developing angular cheilitis can happen to anyone but it mostly happens to children and older adults because their immune systems are not as strong and their sensitivity to temperatures that are extreme. People who are fair-skinned are more susceptible because their skin has less melanin.
Angular Cheilitis Symptoms
When a person has angular cheilitis it may feel as if you have a rash or paste around your lips making you want to constantly lick your lips because they feel dry. When a person develops angular cheilitis the first symptom is usually chapped lips. Many times the person has the misconception that by licking their lips they are moisturizing them but in reality it can make the condition worse because the saliva raises the risk of getting an infection.
Some of the mild symptoms of angular cheilitis can include:
- Itching – from time to time you will start feeling itchy on the surface of your skin. You may even feel like the itch is deep inside your skin.
- Cracking – there are usually splits or cracks on the surface of your skin around the corners of your mouth which is how it got its name because angular means “corners of the mouth.”
- Tenderness – in the area of this condition you will feel like the surface of your skin is tenderer than the other parts of your face.
If angular cheilitis is not treated at this point you may start to see some severe symptoms that can include:
- Swelling – the skin around your mouth will start to swell and turn red due to the inflammation. It is like an allergic reaction and it can add to the frustration of the milder symptom of itching.
- Bleeding – if you stress your skin too much it will break, especially if there is a rash and excessive dryness. When cracks form it can start to bleed.
- Sores – of all of the severe symptoms having sores are the worse. You could develop these sores in the area of angular cheilitis and if that happens it could leave the area exposed to becoming infected. This symptom will make the itching and bleeding symptoms worse. Sometimes the sores will open and pus will develop.
There are many different reasons that could possibly cause a person angular cheilitis but the actual reason has not been figured out. Some of the probable causes can include:
- Having a nutritional deficiency that can include a deficiency in zinc, iron, vitamin B, or riboflavin. The most common nutritional deficiency is vitamin B.
- Having bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa which are related to malnutrition or being malnourished.
- Constant vomiting
- Loss of teeth
- Cold weather in which your lips crack and turn dry.
- The constant biting and licking of your lips
- Having a fungal or bacterial infection
- Taking certain medications such as acitretin for psoriasis or isotretinoin for acne. It can also be any medication where dry mouth is a side effect of the medication
- Having excessive vitamin A in your body which could be caused by the overconsumption of vitamin supplement but this is a rare cause.
- While sleeping you are oozing saliva from the corners of your mouth because the saliva will keep the corners of your lips moist all night.
- Dentures that are ill-fitting.
- An individual’s genetic predisposition such as having Down’s syndrome
- Excess wind and sun exposure can cause your lip area to become dry and chapped.
- Frequent and improper closing and opening of your mouth which in time can create lesions or cracks on both corners of your lips.
- Wiping your mouth frequently
- Using incompatible products like lipstick, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. but this is rare
- Protein-calorie malnutrition is the cause in fifty percent of older people who are residing in nursing homes
- It can also be a symptom that is associated with the Plummer-Vinson syndrome.
Because there are so many possible causes for developing angular cheilitis, before the treatment can be chosen it is necessary to find what the cause is. Some of the treatments use can include:
- One of the causes that is most common is a deficiency in vitamin B so the best treatment is to have a vitamin B replacement which is usually by injection.
- If it is made worse or caused by bacteria topical antibiotic ointments or creams may be necessary.
- If it is caused by a fungal infection you would need it to be treated by an anti-fungal cream.
- If it because of a deficiency in iron or zinc, anorexia or bulimia, malnourishment, or frequent vomiting you should treat it with zinc, vitamin B, or iron but that depends on the patient. You may also have to make dietary changes to help increase the levels of the substance that is deficient. If it is anorexia or bulimia you may also need counseling to help you stop these two destructive habits.
- If you suffer from chapped lips you could use a medication to help moisturize your lips.
Other home remedies that you can use to help with your dry lips and ease the symptoms of angular cheilitis can include:
- Make sure that you are keeping yourself well hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. If you to make sure that you are keeping the affected area dry, drink water using a straw.
- Rub some fresh slices of cucumber on the affected area and your lips to help reduce the pain and irritation.
- Make sure that your diet is rich in leafy green vegetables like spinach, carrots, legumes, and tomatoes to cover some of the nutrients that you have a deficiency in.
- You can also use unflavored lip gloss or lip balm to keep your lips moist and keep you from licking your lips.
Is angular cheilitis contagious?
No, it is not contagious.