The corners of my mouth are cracking up
Originally Published: June 7, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 11, 2011
(1) Hi Alice,
Just wanted to know if you knew what the little sores were that come right in the corner of your mouth on the outside, not inside. I've heard they are caused by something lacking in your diet. Right now I have two, one on each side, and I have no idea what has changed in my diet to cause them. Is there anyway to clear them up?
My friend has been experiencing cracked skin at the corners of her mouth for about a week now. I seem to remember my mother having the same thing, and that the cause was a deficiency or reaction of some kind. What could be the cause and does it have a name? She would like to do some self-educating before going to see her doctor.
Dear Donna and sd,
Cracks or sores in the corner of the mouth, also known as angular cheilitis, angular stomatitis, or perleche, can be rather annoying, like a paper cut — small, and irritating. Angular cheilitis is actually an inflammatory condition, and can cause bleeding and ulceration in addition to the painful cracks or sores.
There is no universal cause for angular cheilitis, and the cracks can develop for a number of different reasons, including:
- yeast, staph, or strep infections
- dry lips and skin (particularly during dry winter weather!)
- B-vitamin deficiencies, including B2 (riboflavin), B6, and B12
- iron-deficiency anemia (low red blood cells due to too little iron)
- allergic reaction to some substance (particularly products used on the lips, such as lip gloss/stick/balm, and even dental care/oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste)
- poorly fitting dentures (or no teeth or no dentures at all)
Because of the many potential causes, treatment for angular cheilitis varies. At home, you can try applying petroleum jelly, which will help with dryness. You can also use a little dab of hydrocortisone cream, an anti-inflammatory that's available over-the-counter at lower concentrations. Apply the cream over the area 2 to 3 times each day (at meals and at night). If you don't see improvement from either remedy in under a week, or if the area becomes redder, more swollen, or terribly uncomfortable, you'll need to see your health care provider or dermatologist.Columbia students can use Open Communicator or call x4-2284 to make an appointment. Your provider can determine the likely cause and prescribe an antifungal (anti-yeast), antibiotic, or anti-inflammatory medication as needed.
If you continue to have problems with cracking at the corners of your mouth, check with your provider again to see if there are other measures you need to be taking, such as using vitamin or iron supplements, switching to a milder baking soda based toothpaste, or being properly fitted with dentures.