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Angular cheilitis

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2010.


What is angular cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis is a common inflammatory condition affecting the corners of the mouth or oral commissures. Depending on underlying causes, it may last a few days or persist indefinitely. It is also called angular stomatitis, cheilosis and perleche (perlèche).

Angular cheilitis

See more images of angular cheilitis.

What causes angular cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis is due to one or more of the following factors:

Who is prone to angular cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis is common and affects children and adults, especially when they are in poor health. Predisposing factors include:

It is made worse by licking the lips.

What are the clinical features of angular cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis may result in the following symptoms and signs at the corners of the mouth:

  • Painful cracks/fissures
  • Blisters, erosions, oozing, crusting
  • Redness
  • Bleeding.

It may progress to more widespread impetigo or candidiasis on the adjacent skin and elsewhere.

What investigations can be done in angular cheilitis?

The culture of swabs taken from the corners of the mouth may reveal:

Skin biopsy is not usually necessary.

What is the treatment of angular cheilitis?

In many cases, no treatment is needed and angular cheilitis resolves by itself. Depending on the specific cause, the following treatments may be useful:


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