Angular cheilitis

What is angular cheilitis?

An inflammation of the angles of the lips is known as angular cheilitis. Angular cheilitis initially starts as a small sore and then the discomfort increases followed by the appearance of chapped, dry and red lesions. Both the corners of the mouth may be affected by angular cheilitis.
Though angular cheilitis 
can occur at any age, its incidence is more in children, elderly people and during pregnancy.

Causes and risk factors

Causes

Angular cheilitis can result from:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection
  • Any kind of trauma of the mouth

Risk factors

  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Teeth malocclusion
  • Drastic weight loss leading to sagging of skin
  • Immunosuppression, diabetes mellitus and inflammatory bowel disease

Symptoms and signs

Symptoms are evident as lip corners being cracked. The mouth corners become sore and red. The creases on the mouth corners become prominent and the saliva buildup irritates the skin.

The common symptoms include:

  • Discomfort on opening the mouth
  • Swelling or redness of the corners of the mouth
  • Mouth corners with fissures, cracking, crusting, scaling, ulceration and bleeding.

Rarely scars may result in the corners of the mouth due to this condition.

Diagnosis

Physical examination can diagnose angular cheilitis. Sometimes, microbiological swabs of the anterior nares and both the angles of the mouth may be taken for further examination.

Treatment and prevention

Treatment

The treatment may vary depending on the cause.  Local application of a protective petroleum jelly might be helpful.

Anti-fungal and steroidal topical creams may be prescribed by the doctor.

Prevention

Cracking of the mouth corners may be prevented by

  • Avoiding licking and  biting of lips
  • Maintaining oral hygiene

Read more

Complications

Angular cheilitis can lead to acquired linear anetoderma.

Next steps

Visit your doctor in case your angles of the mouth or lips are sore or red and you believe they are infected.

Red Flags

See your doctor immediately if you have persistent non-healing sore on the angles of the mouth.

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References

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  • Angular Cheilitis Information & Facts. Angular Cheilitis Help. Accessed 2 Mar. 16. http://www.angularcheilitishelp.org/
  • Angular Cheilitis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Accessed 2 Mar. 16. http://www.aocd.org/page/AngularCheilitis
  • Angular cheilitis. College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario. Accessed 2 Mar. 16. http://www.cdho.org/Advisories/CDHO_Factsheet_Angular_Cheilitis.pdf
  • Answer: Can you identify this condition? Can Fam Physician. 2007 Jun; 53(6): 1022–1023

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