Cracks at the Corners of Mouth – What do they mean?

by L Matthews on October 5, 2012

cracks at the corners of the mouth angular cheilitis

Oral symptoms are often a sign of B vitamin deficiency but there are many causes of angular cheilitis.

The arrival of the fall weather means that many are suffering from dry and cracked lips, but what causes cracks at the corners of the mouth? The medical terms for this include angular cheilitis, perlèche, cheilosis or angular stomatitis, and there are a variety of causes. In some cases the inflammatory lesions and cracks can become severe and painful, even leading to malnutrition as it becomes painful to open the mouth to eat or drink. As always, achieving naturally healthy skin means taking a look at the underlying causes and restoring balance, rather than simply relying on palliative measures with a short-term effect.

Oral Symptoms – Cracked Lips

Cracks at the corners of the mouth are often difficult to treat because the mouth is frequently mobile, when talking, laughing, eating, drinking, or simply breathing when an autumn cold has blocked up your nose. Severe splits in the sides of the mouth may ulcerate and bleed and lead many to feel self-conscious. The cracks may become wet and ooze, then crust over and crack again upon mouth movement. Differentiating a coldsore, herpes, chapped lips and angular cheilitis may be difficult for some physicians, especially as the signs may be unaccompanied by other symptoms of illness or infection.

oral herpes versus angular cheilitis

Angular cheilitis affects the corners of the mouth but can look similar to herpes on occasion.


Cracked Mouth and Candida

Angular cheilitis is often connected to a Candida albicans infection (oral thrush), but it is not generally considered to be caused by such an infection. Rather, most people carry this type of yeast but are able to hold infection at bay, until the immune system is compromised in some way. Treating Candida albicans infection can help reduce the symptoms of cracked lips and cracks at the corners of the mouth but the problem is likely to recur if the underlying cause is not addressed.

Angular Cheilitis and Nutritional Deficiencies

A variety of nutritional deficiencies have been connected with angular cheilitis, namely zinc deficiency, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) deficiency and even iron-deficiency anaemia. The condition may be more common in teenage girls due to a higher propensity for anaemia as well as anorexia and bulimia nervosa which can cause malnutrition and repeated irritation of the oral cavity from purposeful vomiting. New vegans and vegetarians whose bodies have not yet upregulated intake of vitamins and minerals from plant sources may also be at risk of cracks in the corners of the mouth, as are celiacs (those who are gluten intolerant), due to nutrient deficiencies and systemic inflammation.

Who Gets Cracks at the Corners of the Mouth, and Why?

Elderly people are also at risk of angular cheilitis as the loss of teeth reduces the size of the mouth and thus causes problems with the elasticity of the skin. Older people may also lick their lips more frequently to compensate for having a dry mouth; Low saliva production can be connected to general ageing as well as a range of medications. Younger people who work in the service industry or in a public sphere often develop angular cheilitis due to constant lip-licking when they are talking for hours at a time. Using lip balms can help in this regard but some may actually dry out the lips, encourage oral thrush or leave residue that cracks and causes inflammation. Diabetics are more prone to yeast infections and so those developing cracks in the mouth may wish to discuss tests with their physician as well as getting better help with blood sugar management.

Medications and Cracked Lips

Medications connected to cracks at the corners of the mouth include Accutane, an acne treatment that causes some teenagers to suffer one condition or the other in a cycle of symptoms. An excess of vitamin A may also lead to angular cheilitis and may occur in those taking vitamin supplements along with cod liver oil or skin supplement.

Read on to discover a variety of over-the-counter and home remedies for cracks at the corner of the mouth.

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