It’s easy to link the development of dry, crusty patches on the corners of our mouths to exposure to extreme cold and dryness, just like chapped lips. However, those flaky patches of skin aren’t just an extension of dry, irritated lips gone rogue — and they’re also not cold sores. They’re caused by a condition known as Angular Cheilitis, which can last for weeks if left to heal on its own.
Not only are the scabs unattractive and impossible to cover with makeup, but they also make tasks that should be enjoyable, such as biting into a big, juicy burger or, simply just smiling, into painful experiences. Let’s dive deeper with the experts to learn how to cut down on the painful healing process and prevent new outbreaks from occurring in the future.
So what exactly is Angular Cheilitis?
Angular cheilitis is a skin condition that causes discomfort and inflammation in one or both corners of the mouth. The inflammation associated with angular cheilitis may spread somewhat onto the lips or skin of the face, but it is mostly in reference to the mouth’s corners. If it is infected and left untreated, however, the infection can spread.
- red or purple spots around the corners of the lips
- swelling or cracking at the corners of the lips
- pain and burning at the corners of the mouth
- dry, chapped lips around the corners of the mouth
Why do we get Angular Cheilitis?
While colder temperatures are more likely to cause these painful sores, the temperature isn’t entirely to blame. For one thing, something as basic as dry indoor heating systems or a stuffy nose will lead us to sleep with our mouth open, causing drool to gather in the corners of our mouth, according to Dr. Jegasothy.
Angular cheilitis can also be caused by excessive lip licking. Excess saliva will collect in the corners, providing the ideal warm atmosphere for fungi such as yeast to thrive.
Oral thrush (also known as oral candidiasis, a yeast infection that occurs on the interior of the mouth and tongue) and inflammatory diseases, as well as people who take prescription medications like oral retinoids, corticosteroids, or antibiotics, are more likely to experience these corner sores. As well as those that that wear braces, cigarettes, or have anaemia, asthma, or cancer are more likely to develop the disease. Many with an upper lip overhang, which produces sharper angles at the corners of the mouth, are also in the same boat.
A very common cause can also be diet and nutrition. A lack of B2, B3, B6, and iron in the diet may increase the risk of developing angular cheilitis and is often a way of your body telling you that you have a deficiency if all of the above do not apply to you. Oral candidiasis can grow in a high-carbohydrate diet, as well as a glucose-rich diet.
How to prevent Angular Cheilitis?
The dentist recommends brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouth rinse to help keep our oral health and a yeast takeover in order. Things like ensuring you have a more balanced diet can also help balance healthy flora in the mouth — something that may lead to fewer instances of corner sores. Following a balanced diet that provides an abundance of whole and minimally-processed foods including both non-starchy and starchy vegetables, legumes, and fruits. For those at risk, such as those with a B vitamin deficiency, anemia, or diabetes, it’s important to make sure that you take supplements to help ensure you are filling in any nutritional gaps that your diet may have.
Now, how do you treat Angular Cheilitis?
If you happen to start to see or feel sore cracks forming in the cracks of your mouth, Dr. Jegasothy has a tip to help you treat it: “Any over-the-counter athlete’s foot cream with butenafine 2%, like Lotrimin Ultra, will help,” she says. Twice daily (morning and night) application of the antifungal medicine can regulate and diminish the sore!
Have any tips for fellow readers? Leave a comment below of a treatment or home remedy thats worked for you!