A Pain In The Mouth: Cheilosis And What You Can Do About It

When you first started showing signs of cheilosis, you probably tried to ignore them or just wished and hoped they would go away quickly on their own. That, of course, was unlikely to happen without addressing the underlying causes of the cheilosis. The problem with addressing the underlying causes is that odds are good that you were unaware of what was causing this painful condition to erupt at the corners of your mouth. It’s more than likely you didn’t even know what to call the condition that was causing the corners of your mouth to swell, crack, and split. You just knew it was miserable and you wanted it gone. Well, if you’re still suffering and you have questions, check out these answers so you can seek effective treatment and feel better soon.

What are the common symptoms for which I should be on the alert?

The primary complaints are swollen, irritated corners of the mouth. Early signs are redness and discomfort. Both sides of the mouth might be irritated, or one side might be irritated while the other is fine. They may itch, blister, crack, bleed, or hurt. The corners of the mouth affected by cheilosis can be crusted over or scaly.

So, what is this condition called that might be causing the problems at the sides of my mouth?

There are several names used for this condition. It’s commonly called cheilosis, angular cheilitis, angular stomatitis, or perleche.

What causes it to develop?

There are several causes of this condition. Cheilosis can be a sign of physical irritation, where a misalignment of the mouth allows saliva to collect at the corners of the mouth, causing irritation and inflammation. Oral thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth, is often found in oral cheilosis. Bacterial infections are also possible with this condition. It is more common in people with allergic conditions, eczema, and immune system deficiencies. People who have nutritional deficiencies, particularly anemia from lack of iron or B vitamins, are more susceptible to cheilosis as well.

Is it serious?

It can be. Inflammation can cause a host of problems in the body if it goes unchecked. Inflammation is part of your body’s strategy for fighting infection, but it is not meant to be a permanent condition. Inflammation that is present for extended periods can do considerable damage to the body and cause serious problems in the long term. If there is an infection present in the cracks, that infection can also become serious enough to require treatment so your body can fight it off. If the pain and irritation become bad enough, it’s possible that the pain may keep you from eating, leading to nutrient deficiencies and weight loss.

However, bear in mind that cheilosis is not an emergency. Even the most serious complications, nutrient deficiencies, develop over time, not in a matter of hours or minutes. Some cases resolve in days remaining more of an aggravation than a grave illness.

What can I do for it?

To completely clear the cheilosis, it helps to know which specific cause is aggravating your mouth. That means you’ll probably need to consult with your doctor or dental care team to take a look at your condition and determine the cause, thus determining which treatment is appropriate for your particular situation. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a topical ointment or cream to treat your cheilosis—an antibiotic if the cause is bacterial, an antifungal if the cause is a fungus, a steroid to control swelling and inflammation and promote healing, or an antiseptic to help keep the area clean and infection-free. If they would like you to avoid sodium laurel sulfate, you may want to try a tooth gel that doesn’t contain this ingredient.

If you are at greater risk because of braces keeping your mouth misaligned, your dentist or orthodontist may be able to make an adjustment that improves the situation. If you are at greater risk because of nutrition deficiencies like anemia, you will be advised on healthier eating habits to keep you healthy and avoid future outbreaks of cheilosis and help heal your current one. Using lip balm to keep your lips protected may also help to keep you comfortable and irritation-free.

While it may be an unpleasant condition, cheilosis can be managed and resolved. You can be pain-free and have your beautiful smile back in peak shape with a little care and a little help from your healthcare team.

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