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Like most people who have angular cheilitis, you also probably have a lot of questions about it—what it is, why it happened to you, what can be done to treat it, what the signs and symptoms are, how safe home remedies are, and so on. Although it is quite a common mouth ailment that can affect any age, many are not that familiar about it. And as you know, the first step in treating any illness is knowledge, which is why you are here to know and learn more about this mouth condition. Let’s answer the most frequently asked questions about it.

What is angular cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis, which is known by many names including perleche, cheilosis, angular stomatitis, mouth corner cracks, mouth corner splits, and mouth corner sores, is an infection of the mouth characterized by swelling, redness, and open lesions on the mouth angles.

What causes angular cheilitis?

The primary cause is bacterial, fungal or viral infection. But it can be triggered by anything that causes saliva to accumulate on the corners of the mouth, dries up the skin on this area, or weakens the immune system. Common triggers include nutritional deficiency, poor-fitting dentures, chapped lips, dry weather, pen-biting habits, stress, poor hygiene, use of certain cosmetic products, and certain medical conditions especially those that deteriorate immune resistance.

What are the signs and symptoms of angular cheilitis?

The most significant sign of this mouth infection is the cracking of the mouth corners. The problem typically starts with chapped lips then the dryness extends to the corners of the mouth. When saliva with bacteria and fungi get stuck on these areas, that is when infection occurs. Other signs and symptoms include redness, swelling, weeping ulcers, itchiness and pain.

How can angular cheilitis be treated?

Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics and antifungal treatments for angular cheilitis. Home remedies can also work to alleviate the pain, swelling, and other symptoms brought about by this condition. For example, by applying aloe vera on the mouth angles, you can soothe down the inflammation. Or if you use baking soda, the cracks will feel a little less painful. Many of the home remedies only offer temporary relief so it is a must to find out the root cause of the problem to find the suitable treatment method.

Why isn’t my angular cheilitis treatment working?

The most common reason your angular cheilitis treatment isn’t working is because you’re not using the right one. As there are many causes and triggers for this mouth infection, there are also many types of treatment. You need to tailor fit your treatment based on what’s causing the problem. For example, if you have poorly-fitted dentures, no antibiotic or antifungal cream can help you get rid of it for good. Or if the infection is caused by fungal infection, of course, an antibacterial medication will not be able to do the job.

Another possible reason is that you’re not following directions. You need to do what the doctor tells you to do to ensure that the treatment method works well. It can also be because of your weak immune resistance, which makes your body vulnerable to infections. What you need to do is to boost your overall health with the help of proper diet, regular exercise, and plenty of rest. Remember that angular cheilitis has been linked to stress and nutritional deficiency.

Is angular cheilitis contagious?

Fortunately, it’s not. Some people might think that it is as it looks similar to other contagious mouth conditions. But angular cheilitis can’t be spread from one person to another.

Is angular cheilitis same as oral herpes?

No, these are two different mouth conditions. Although they look similar to the point that some people mistake angular cheilitis as oral herpes, they’re very much different. For one, oral herpes also called cold sores is caused by a specific virus (herpes simplex virus) while angular cheilitis is caused by bacteria, fungi, virus or a combination of these. Also, take note that in perleche, the cracks only appear on the angles of the mouth, unlike with oral herpes, which can affect the entire area. Small red blisters can grow on the area around the lips. Moreover, cold sores are highly contagious.

Who are at risk of angular cheilitis?

It’s known that this mouth infection can affect anyone but some people are at increased risk like children, pregnant women, elderly, and people with certain medical conditions. Children are vulnerable to infections because their immune systems are not yet that strong. Babies and toddlers who use feeding bottles and pacifier and who have the habit of sucking their thumbs are more prone to angular cheilitis because saliva accumulate on their mouth angles. Pregnant women, meanwhile, are at heightened risk because of their weakened immune resistance. For elderly people, aside from weak immune defense, they are also at risk if they use dentures or if they don’t have any teeth. Again, these has something to do with saliva accumulation on the mouth corners.

Can angular cheilitis heal on its own?

Yes, it’s possible for this mouth infection to heal on its own. As they say, the mouth is the fastest healing part of the body. But the problem is, if your immune system is weak (which is probably why you got the infection in the first place), the mouth infection may not go away without treatment. Also, the fact that the mouth is always moving, and saliva always gets to the mouth corners can make it difficult for the wounds to seal. It’s better that you treat it before it gets worse or becomes a chronic condition.

Are all angular cheilitis home remedies safe?

It’s easy to think of home remedies as safe, after all just the word “home” connotes safety, right? But be careful about using some types of recommended home remedies. Remember, not everything you’ll find online is true or safe. For example, some “experts” would advise you to put rubbing alcohol on the corners of your mouth to kill the bacteria. Sure, it’s true that rubbing alcohol has antibacterial qualities but it’s also true that it has strong chemicals that should not come in contact with your mouth. If you’re going to use any home remedy, be sure to consult your doctor first.

How do you know if you have severe angular cheilitis?

It’s easy to know if your angular cheilitis is not improving. For one, if you’re undergoing treatment, it should be gone by two to three weeks. If not and the condition seems to get worse, you’ll notice that the open lesions are turning into weeping ulcers. The pain also increases over time. Even simple movements of the mouth can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. Don’t wait until this happens before you do something about your mouth infection. Go to your doctor and ask for a prescription of antibacterial or antifungal, or find an effective home treatment to alleviate the symptoms and kill the source of the infection.

Does angular cheilitis leave scars?

Yes, it’s possible for this condition to leave scars on the corners of your mouth. If your skin is prone to scarring, then it would help to treat the area right away. Don’t pick on the wounds either. Use anti-scarring ointments available over the counter.

Is angular cheilitis really a symptom of AIDS?

If you have angular cheilitis, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have AIDS. AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, causes the immune system to deteriorate. And once the immune system is weak, it becomes more vulnerable to infections like angular cheilitis. But take note that not all people who have cracks in the corners of their mouth have AIDS.

Can angular cheilitis spread to the other parts of the body?

No, it can’t. That’s one of the primary characteristics of angular cheilitis, the symptoms are confined to the mouth angles. The inflammation, redness, swelling, and open lesions—the infection as a whole—cannot spread to the other parts of the body, not even to the other areas of the mouth, unlike with other mouth conditions.

What can I do to speed up treatment and recovery?

There are many things that you can do but it all boils down to two things: get rid of the source of infection and strengthen your immune defense. Whatever it is that causes bacteria or fungi to get into this part of your mouth, work to resolve that. Boost your health by eating a healthy diet, preferably one that’s high in B vitamins and iron, get regular exercise of at least 30 minutes a day, ditch your old unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking alcohol or biting your fingernails, tone down your stress levels, and get plenty of rest.

Now that you have the answers to the most frequently asked questions about angular cheilitis, it would be easier for you to find the right treatment for it. Before you know it, you’ll be able to bid it goodbye for good and never again worry about it.


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