Sore areas in the corners of the mouth or on the lips

I believe I have angular Cheilitis. Redness and irritation at the sides of my mouth. I am 75 yrs old and take a medication that dries out my mouth. I have had this before and it went away. Its mostly on one side of my mouth. Any suggestions? A few yrs ago I had thrush but do not have it now. Using lots of aquapore on my lips and the sides of my lips. Doesn't hurt but looks unsightly.

Have you ever had soreness or sores around the lips or mouth?   It’s a very common problem in all age groups.   You’re right!  In the corners of the mouth, this is called angular cheilitis.   On the lips themselves, there are various names and causes.

In the corners of the mouth:

  • Usually caused by an imbalance in the natural bacterial biome of the skin.
  • This imbalance could be a recent oral antibiotic course, out of control blood sugar, or irritation from products used on the lips or in care of the teeth or mouth. There are many causes.
  • Retained moisture in the corners, especially at night can be contributing.  Bacteria and yeasts like moisture.  A retainer from your dentist may help.
  • Often a culture (a Q-tip like swab) is needed to tell whether there is a bacteria, like Staph Aureus, or yeast growing.  At our office, we strongly recommend a culture. Otherwise we don’t know exactly what we are treating!  It’s painless.
  • Treatment should depend on your diagnosis.  If you’ve had this problem for more than a week or two,  please see your doctor!!
  • Sometimes products like Aquaphor or Vaseline are just trapping the bacteria underneath, which won’t help.

On the lips themselves:

  • Most people recognize the symptoms of cold sores, which are the most common cause.  These can occur in the nose also.
  • If you have cold sores (herpes simplex 1 or 2 virus), the oral medications like valcyclovir or acyclovir is much more effective than any of the creams. These target the virus specifically, and side effects are virtually unknown.  You’ll need a prescription from your primary care doctor.
  • Please remember that sore areas on the lips may be skin cancer!  If it’s been there over 3-4 weeks, please have it checked!
  • Also, there is a precancerous condition, that can look like just chronically chapped lips, usually on the lower lip.  This also needs to be checked.
  • Anyone women or men wearing lipsticks, or other lip care products can develop an allergy.  Try stopping everything except the plain mint Bert’s bees and see if it gets better. If not, see your doctor.
I Hope this helps,
Dr. Brandith Irwin
Founder, SkinTour
Director, Madison Skin & Laser Center
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Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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