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Angular cheilitis

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Angular cheilitis 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 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 corners 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.

All ages can be affected. Some groups may be prone due to:

  • soreness due to recent dental work
  • certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly the vitamin B family and zinc
  • those who suffer from 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, you have any additional symptoms (such as skin rash, change in bowel habits, 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 or provide a prescription if necessary.

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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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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