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Cheilitis: Chapped Lips

Cheilitis: Chapped Lips
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chapped lips

Cheilitis is the medical terminology for what is more commonly known as “chapped lips.” Chapped lips refer to any irritation or inflammation of the lips. Cheilitis is incredibly common, and is found equally in men and women. It can occur at any age.

What Causes Cheilitis?

Cheilitis can occur as the result of any of the following factors:

  • Dehydration
  • Cold weather
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Infectious diseases
    • Herpes virus
  • Chemical irritants (soaps, cosmetics)
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Tobacco use

Types of Cheilitis

Actinic Cheilitis

Actinic cheilitis is lip irritation caused by over-exposure to the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.

Angular Cheilitis

Angular cheilitis is irritation that occurs at the corners of the lips. It is found most frequently in elderly individuals and is thought to stem from nutritional deficiencies.

Eczematous Cheilitis

Eczematous cheilitis refers to lip irritation caused by an irritant, such as cosmetics.

Infectious Cheilitis

Infectious cheilitis is lip irritation caused by an infectious disease.

Granulomatous Cheilitis

Granulomatous cheilitis is enlargement of the lips caused by formation of non-caseating granulomatous inflammation.

Drug-Related Cheilitis

Drug-related cheilitis is lip irritation caused by prescription drugs including (but not limited to) Etretinate, Indinavir, Protease inhibitors, Vitamin A and Isotretinoin.

Exfoliative Cheilitis

Exfoliative cheilitis is a rare type of cheilitis, characterized by the vermilion zone of the lips becoming painful and crusted.

Cheilitis Glandularis

Cheilitis glandularis is an inflammatory condition of the minor salivary glands in the lower lip caused by tobacco use. It causes ulcerations, crusting and abscesses.

Plasma Cell Cheilitis

Plasma cell cheilitis is a very rare type of cheilitis in which well0defined, infiltrated, dark red plaque forms on the lower lip, gingiva and tongue.


Cheilitis Symptoms

  • Cracks in the lips
  • Dry skin on the lips
  • Bleeding lips
  • Pain whenever you stretch your lips (talking, eating, smiling)

Diagnosing Cheilitis

Most cases of cheilitis are minor and do not need a medical diagnosis. If your lips are severely irritated, a primary care physician can order diagnostic testing to find the cause. They may also refer you to a dermatologist or other specialist to rule out serious conditions that can lead to cheilitis.

Treating Cheilitis

For many, cheilitis can be resolved by daily use of a hydrating lip balm. Severe, prolonged cases may need to be treated with a medicated lip balm. Changing certain lifestyle factors, such as staying hydrated and quitting tobacco use can also resolve chapped lips.

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