Most of us think nothing of cracked lips, thinking them the by-product of cold winter winds or too much sun on the beach. We slap on some lip balm or petroleum jelly and keep on going. Other people know the condition from bacterial infections, yeast infections, a side effect of chemical medications, an allergic reaction, viral infections or a toxin.
Cracked lips are called cheilitis. Cheilitis cracked lips are actually inflamed or swollen lips. You'll notice this if you've ever had pneumonia. When the lips swell, they crack open and leave complete gaps in the skin of the lips. Sometimes the condition is chronic and requires a doctor's care.
In many cases, an over the counter chapped lips remedy is good enough. Those whose causes of cracked lips are deeper require a fungus fighting cream or ointment, an anti-staphylococcal antibiotic, or other medicated ointments to take down the swelling. There are many types of cheilitis, but this article will be devoted to four of the main types
The lips form a 90 degree angle at their corners which is where the word angular in angular cheilitis originates. The corners of the lips will swell and produce red patches. The condition can occur on either or both sides of the lips. It can last several days or become a chronic condition. All ages from infants to seniors can get angular cheilitis. Viruses, bacteria, and yeast are the most common causes of angular cheilitis. Symptoms include scaly, red crusty skin, swelling, painful, and sometimes bleeding lips. Topical antiseptics and creams treat the condition as well as keeping the lips covered in lip balm.
Actinic cheilitis or AC looks rather innocently as chapped lips. It occurs when lips have been in the sun for a long time. When the chapping turns white and scaly, it's time to see a doctor. AC morphs into skin cancer. Outdoor workers like landscapers, sailors, and fishermen are most susceptible to AC. If their immune systems are weak, they're twice as likely to contract AC. AC is treated by applying medication to the lips for two to three weeks. If the condition is bad enough, surgery is required. The first type of surgery is cryogenic in which the skin is frozen using liquid nitrogen. The skin then peels off which allows the growth of new skin. The second type of surgery is electric in which the AC is destroyed by an electric current.
A granuloma forms in inflammation. The immune system recognizes it as a foreign thing but can't destroy it. Cheilitis Granulomatosa presents as swelling of one or both lips with a beginning of soft to firm to hard swelling. Granulomatous cheilitis can last for days and go away, but it can be chronic as well. Research has linked this type of cheilitis to Melkersson-Rosenthal as well as Crohn's disease. The cause has been a bone of contention between doctors. Some find granulomatosa cheilitis a genetic condition while others think it is caused by allergies to MSG, food colorings, cobalt, and cinnamaldehyde. Treatments range from calmative ointments to intralesional preparations or injections. Surgery is a last resort.
Cheilitis glandularis is a form of cheilitis cracked lips that is a rare occurrence. It presents as lip swelling, enlargement of the salivary glands, production of thick mucus, and lip inflammation. There is a large occurrence of lip carcinoma or cancer in white males. Research can't find a cause for glandular cheilitis, but some researchers think it's genetic. Symptoms include abnormal salivary production, weakened immune system, squamous cell carcinoma or cancer, and thickened lower lip. Due to the rarity of the condition and the paucity of information as to cause, treatment is up to the doctor upon learning the results of tests. There are a variety of medications that can be attempted. A last resort treatment is lip shaving.