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Angular cheilitis

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

This is a condition that mainly affects the corners of the mouth rather than the rest of the lips. The main symptoms include swelling and redness, blistering, and crusting or cracking in the corners of the mouth. It’s also sometimes known as angular stomatitis.

It may be painful and can be caused by a number of factors. Some forms of angular cheilitis may be caused by sweat and saliva build-up. This causes changes in pH on the skin and can lead to a fungal infection in the corner of the mouth. There can also be bacterial or viral infection present.

It is usually bilateral and symmetrical although occasionally it may affect one side of the mouth only and may sometimes spread to cause impetigo or oral thrush.

Doctor’s advice

Who gets angular cheilitis?

Elderly patients are more prone to angular cheilitis due to structural changes to the muscle around the lips that can cause sagging of the skin around the mouth as well as from wearing dentures.

All ages can be affected. Some groups may be more prone to it because of:

  • soreness due to recent dental work
  • certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly the vitamin B family, and zinc
  • those who suffer with inflammatory or autoimmune conditions such as Sjogren's syndrome and Crohn's disease
  • smoking
  • oral thrush
  • repeated lip licking
  • rapid weight loss

When should I see my doctor?

If your pharmacist confirms you have angular cheilitis then you should book a visit with your doctor. You should also see the doctor if your angular cheilitis is severe, if you have any additional symptoms (such as skin rashes, a change in bowel habit, fatigue) or it is not improving after two weeks of treatment.

The doctor will ask you about your medical history and examine the area. Your doctor may want to investigate whether there's an underlying cause for it. They may take swabs to see if there is any bacterial, fungal or viral infection present. They will suggest a treatment of provide a prescription if necessary although in many cases no treatment is needed and it gets better by itself.

General treatment measures include drinking more fluids, using a lip balm and topical antiseptics. If treatment is needed then, depending on the cause, this can include antifungal creams or antifungal tablets, antibiotics or steroid ointment if the skin is very inflamed.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have angular cheilitis.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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