Cheilitis is an inflammation of the lips caused by numerous external factors. The lips are normally soft with very little keratin, but they can become dry with corneal desquamation on surface. This creates discomfort in the patient.
When you see patients with cheilitis, what is the condition of their lips?
The mucosa is dry and small bits of corneal cells are flaking off.
In more severe cases, there are painful vertical cracks. The dryness causes unpleasant burning sensations. In my patients I often observe a tendency to compensate for the dryness by frequently wetting their lips with their tongue, which aggravates the situation. Sometimes it is the skin around the lips which becomes irritated, dry, red and cracked.
Why do the lips become damaged?
The lips are very sensitive to exterior conditions.
Cold and the sun are among the leading factors that can cause cheilitis. The small bits of dry mucosa are often picked off by patients, causing inflammation which aggravates cheilitis. One may also observe intolerance of sticks or lipstick which contain allergens. These may trigger eczema of the lips which eventually affects the area surrounding the mouth. Sometimes medicines are the cause of this dryness.
How do you fight cheilitis?
Prevention is the rule.
I recommend that my patients use a protective lip product that is neutral, rich and free of allergens (preservatives, balsam of Peru) as soon as the weather turns cold. In the mountains or in the summer sun, you must use a lip protection product that contains sun filters. Patients must avoid tics such as picking at or licking their lips. When the lips become cracked, I recommend scar-promoting ointments that have good tolerance. In the case of contact dermatitis, you must, of course, identify the irritating agent and discontinue using it.