What Is Angular Cheilitis?
In angular cheilitis, red, swollen patches develop in one or both corners of the mouth. Cracks or blisters may also develop. The condition is also called perleche and angular stomatitis.
What Causes Angular Cheilitis?
An overgrowth of the yeast Candida is often the cause of angular cheilitis. Less common causes include infection with bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, and deficiencies in certain vitamins or minerals. Sometimes it’s not clear why angular cheilitis develops.
Angular Cheilitis Risk Factors
Anything that makes saliva collect in corners of the lips increases the risk of angular cheilitis. Dampness combined with warmth make the area an ideal environment for yeast to multiply. Angular cheilitis is common in children who suck their thumbs.
You’re at greater risk of developing angular cheilitis if the shape of your mouth or lips encourages a buildup of saliva. Poorly fitting dentures and sagging around the mouth due to aging, rapid weight loss or smoking can contribute to this problem.
You’re also more likely to develop angular cheilitis if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have sensitive skin
- Frequently lick your lips
- Produce a lot of saliva
- Have crooked teeth or a misaligned bite
- Don’t consume enough nutrients, particularly B vitamins, iron and zinc
- Have gum disease or other oral health problems
- Regularly floss too aggressively
Certain medical conditions in addition to diabetes can make you more vulnerable to developing angular cheilitis. These include anemia, Sjogren’s syndrome, Down syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and several types of cancer, including blood, kidney, liver, lung and pancreatic cancers, as well as conditions that involve immune deficiency, such as HIV/AIDS.
Prolonged use of antibiotics and corticosteroids can also increase the risk.
Angular Cheilitis Symptoms
The symptoms of angular cheilitis range in severity from just a bit of redness to cracks and bleeding that can make eating difficult. You may have angular cheilitis if the corners of your mouth are:
- Crusty or scaly
Licking your lips makes the condition worse.
Angular Cheilitis Treatments
Angular cheilitis should be treated promptly. If an infection is the cause, it can spread to the surrounding skin or lead to oral thrush, a fungal infection of the lining of the mouth.
Depending on the cause of the angular cheilitis, a doctor may recommend:
- Topical anti-fungal or antibacterial treatments
- Topical steroid ointments to support healing and ease pain and itching
- Certain vitamin or mineral supplements
- Working with your dentist to improve the fit of your dentures
- Injectable fillers if you have deep creases at the corners of your mouth
- Using lip balm or petroleum jelly to create a barrier between your lips and saliva
- Getting your blood sugar under better control if you have diabetes