IF YOU have crusting sores at the corners of your mouth that just won’t go away, you don’t have to just put up with it.
This annoying condition affects about seven in 1,000 people, so you’re not alone – it’s called angular cheilitis or perleche.
Perleche is derived from the French word, ‘lecher,’ meaning ‘to lick’, as the condition occurs when the skin is continuously wet combined with other factors.
Perleche is seen more in the winter with colder weather and drier air. Cracking of the corners of the mouth, and subsequent licking to keep them moist, sets the stage for infection. This provides a perfect environment for thrush fungi, Staph bacterium or the Herpes viruses to grow.
The micro-organisms then multiple, leaving the skin not only uncomfortable but the lips can end up splitting, oozing and bleeding.
In children, angular cheilitis can result from thumb sucking or the use of dummies. There is also thought to be a link between angular cheilitis and dietary deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin B12.
It’s not only bugs or health problems that can cause this condition. For instance if you have dentures that are worn down and don’t support your face adequately, the skin at the corners of the mouth can flap over creating an in-fold that is perfect for bugs to breed in.
It’s the same when there is a lack of back teeth that support the face and cheeks. The resulting cracking at the corners of the mouth often gives rise to a prematurely aged look.
In mild cases, try to avoid lip licking. The use of lip balms, such as petroleum jelly, may be all that is required to allow the skin to heal.
Antiseptics, steroids, antibiotics and anti fungal creams can be applied to the lip corners, inside your mouth or on any dentures to get rid of any infections.
For persistent angular cheilitis your doctor may want to do a more thorough assessment to exclude any underlying nutritional deficiencies or diseases.
A new more supportive denture or replacing back teeth may be needed to give more facial support and smooth out the skin allowing it to dry out.
Lip fillers can also be useful to treat the marionette puppet lines and folds that can develop at the sides of our mouths, and improve skin quality in general.
And, if you have a non-healing persistent sore, this should be seen by your GP as soon as possible.