Cheilitis is a medical condition that results in an inflammation of the lips marked by one or more of these symptoms: redness, swelling, dryness, and cracks. Commonly known as simply chapped lips, cheilitis can be a side-effect of certain medications, including phenothiazine, lithium, and chemotherapy. High doses of vitamin A can also be a cause.
Cheilitis can affect people of all ages. Cold and dry weather, dehydration, high fever, and certain medications may be causes. There are certain diseases that are related to different types of cheilitis. These types include cheilitis exfoliativa (sensitivity in the lips,) actinic cheilitis (degeneration of lip due to sun damage,) cheilitis glandularis (inflammation of just the lower lip) and angular cheilitis (inflammatory lesion in the corner of the mouth.) Angular cheilitis is the most common.
If can safely do it, discontinue use of medications that may result in chapped lips. Apply petroleum jelly and chapstick often as needed. Avoid licking your lips; the extra moisture will only worsen the condition. Also avoid medicated lip preparations because of the the risk of developing an allergic reaction.
A doctor may prescribe courses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and antibiotics. The particular type of treatment depends on the underlying cause of cheilitis.
Angular cheilitis, which affects mostly the corners of the mouth, is the most common type of cheilitis. It primarily affects older people and can be caused by bacteria, a fungal infection, and by the medication Accutane. Antibiotics are a common course of treatment.
The absence of riboflavin, iron, Vitamin B12, and folate may worsen and trigger cheilitis. If the condition persists, consult a dermatologist. Cheilitis may, for example, be a symptom of an iron deficiency or a disease of the upper esophageal web.