So, you have really painful cracks on the corner of your mouth. The corners of your mouth are red, swollen and cracked. And they hurt – like really hurt. It hurts to talk, smile, eat and oh, jeez, you’ll do anything to keep from yawning! Is it from the cold? Is it from chapped lips? And why doesn’t lip balm help?
You, my friend, most likely have what’s called Angular Cheilitis (key-light-us). Unlike chapped lips, which are caused by dryness, Angular Cheilitis is a fungal infection which is why your lip balm isn’t doing a whole lot.
WHAT CAUSES ANGULAR CHEILITIS?
There are several causes or health issues that might make you more likely to get ANGULAR CHEILITIS –
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Loss of teeth
- Dry Mouth or xerostomia
- Uncontrolled Diabetes
- Some Medications – like those used to treat acne or chemotherapy drugs
- Autoimmune disorders – Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Nutritional deficiencies – lack of A or B vitamins or zinc or not enough iron (anemia)
- Malnutrition – including from frequent vomiting, bulimia or anorexia nervosa
Additionally, people with Down syndrome and elderly people may have increased odds of having cracks in the corner of their mouth.
People with Down syndrome have a lower than normal muscle tone which leads to their mouths being open and their tongue distended, which irritates their lips.
Elderly people may have a compromised immune system which makes it harder for them to fight infections. Additionally, as we get older, we lose muscle strength which can cause the corners of the mouth to turn down and saliva to collect there. They also suffer from over-closure of the mouth due to the loss of teeth.
HOW DO I TREAT ANGULAR CHEILITIS?
Having said all of that, you may not have any of these issues and still get cracked lips. So what can you do to treat it? If you think you have it, doctors recommend a 1-percent hydro cortisone cream along with an antifungal, you know, the over-the-counter stuff they use to treat athlete’s foot. You should definitely use them together since using just the hydro cortisone can decrease your immune system where it’s applied and make the infection even worse.
If after a few weeks you’re still suffering from Angular Cheilitis, make an appointment with a dermatologist. You may need a stronger cortosteroid than you can get over the counter.
CAN I AVOID GETTING CRACKED CORNERS ON MY MOUTH?
Once you’ve had it even for a short time, you’ll want to avoid getting it again at all costs. Here are some tips for
keeping it at bay:
- Use a petroleum jelly at night to keep a protective seal and avoid saliva pooling in the corners of your mouth
- Stay hydrated – especially during the seemingly endless cold winter months to avoid dryness
- Keep up with your oral hygiene. Brush and floss twice daily to keep your mouth clean and healthy and less likely to allow the fungus to grow
- Try not to lick your lips. We often do that when our lips feel dry but that only makes them drier (use that lip balm/petroleum jelly instead)
- Avoid sugar – if you repeatedly get Angular Cheilitis and eat a lot of sugar, cut back. Candida yeast loves sugar (don’t we all?) See if cutting back helps to ease the reappearance of your Angular Cheilitis.
If you’ve tried these solutions and are still having issues, it may be time to see your doctor. Even though Angular Cheilitis is a common disease, each individual needs their own specific care.You may have an immune system issue that needs to be addressed. Finding the cause of your immune problem could help keep the cracks at bay. In the meantime, follow these tips to minimize the discomfort in the corner of your mouth.
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