Angular Cheilitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment for Cracked Lip Corners

Medical review: Dr. Arthur Frazão
February 2022

Angular cheilitis is a medical condition popularly known as "angular stomatitis that is characterized by cracked skin or wounds in the corner of the mouth where the lips meet.

It is ​​​​caused by the overdevelopment of fungi or bacteria, and can happen from habits like constantly licking your lips. These sores can affect only one side of the mouth or both sides, and are associated with symptoms like pain, redness and peeling in the corners of the mouth, as well as difficulty in opening the mouth and even eating.

Since it it caused by fungi or bacteria, angular cheilitis can be passed on to other people through kissing or using the same cup or cutlery, for example. Treatment typically includes the use of an antibiotic or antimycotic medication.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of cheilitis include:

  • Pain when opening the mouth, speaking or eating
  • Burning sensation
  • Increased sensitivity in the corner of the mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Redness in the corner of the mouth
  • Crust in the corner of the mouth
  • Small cracks in the corner of the mouth

These wounds cause a lot of discomfort and sensitivity when eating or drinking very salty, acidic or sugary foods.

What can cause it

Cheilitis is a common condition and one of its main contributor is persistently wet lips and mouth corners. This can be the case in babies who use pacifiers, for example, or people who use dentures or braces. However, angular cheilitis may also occur in people who frequently use corticoid inhalers. Having persistently dry lips may also cause chelitis, and it may also appear in people with a history of dermatitis.

This problem is occurs more frequently when the immune system is weakened, as in patients with AIDS or diabetes. In some cases, cheilitis may be a sign of oral candidiasis, which must be treated.

Treatment options

The main treatment for cracked mouth corners includes keeping the affected area clean and dry to prevent saliva buildup. However, in most cases it’s important to see your doctor for assessment and possible treatment. You may be advised to use ointments or healing creams to stimulate cellular generation The doctor may also recommend the use of antibiotics or antifungal medication, depending on the cause of the cracked skin.

To promote quicker healing, you should try to consume food and drinks that stimulate healing like yogurt or orange juice. Certain food can speed up the regrowth of skin cells to help close wounds. Salty and acidic foods should be avoided in the meantime to protect the area and prevent any pain and discomfort.

Angular cheilitis can become a chronic mouth sore, or there may be periods when it is better and others when it gets worse again, so treatment can take between 1-3 weeks.

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em February de 2022. Medical review por Dr. Arthur Frazão - Opthalmologist, em January de 2019.
Medical review:
Dr. Arthur Frazão
General practitioner
General practitioner, who completed at a specialty ophthalmology at the UFRN in 2008. Licensed to practice under CRM-PE license #16878.