Cheilitis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Cheilitis is an inflammatory disease of various possible forms. Therapy usually includes treating the cause.

What is cheilitis?

Cheilitis is an inflammation that affects the lips. In medicine, different forms of cheilitis are distinguished. These forms include, for example, what is known as cheilitis simplex (the most common form of inflammation) and angular cheilitis. In the latter case, the corners of the mouth are affected by inflammation. Cheilitis can appear as an independent disease or as a symptom of other diseases.

The symptoms of cheilitis can be varied; Those affected often experience redness and swelling of the lips, for example. Corresponding swelling can be accompanied by dandruff and/or painful tears on the lip. Occasionally, as part of a cheilitis, blistering or so-called ulcerations appear – i.e. defects in the skin and mucous membrane that reach into the deep layers of the skin.


Cheilitis can have various causes. First of all, the inflammation of the lip can be caused, for example, by allergic reactions – for example to food or cosmetics .

Infections with pathogens such as viruses, bacteria or fungi can also result in cheilitis. If cheilitis is caused by deficiency symptoms, this is usually due to iron deficiency . Various active ingredients in medicines also occasionally result in cheilitis.

Another factor that can promote inflammatory disease on the lips is exposure to strong light; UV radiation in particular can cause damage to the lips. Last but not least, various tissue changes can also be hidden behind cheilitis. Possible tissue changes include, for example, tumors (swellings) or so-called precancerous conditions (precursors of cancer ).

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

As a rule, very unpleasant discomfort occurs with cheilitis. Those affected suffer from severe inflammation, which occurs mainly on the lips, but can also spread to the face of the affected person. The lips are red and appear brittle or cracked.

In many cases, the cheilitis will also have a negative effect on the aesthetics of the affected person and can significantly reduce it. Many patients therefore also suffer from depression and other mental disorders . Small blisters can also form on the lips, which are often associated with severe pain. If the cheilitis occurs due to an allergy , the patient usually also suffers from the other symptoms of this allergic reaction.

Cheilitis can also lead to an iron deficiency. The severity of the symptoms can be very different with this disease and does not always have to restrict the everyday life of the person affected. Cheilitis can be treated relatively easily, with no particular complications or other symptoms. Applying creams or ointments directly relieves the symptoms.

Diagnosis & History

A diagnosis of the cause of existing cheilitis usually begins with a patient consultation in which the person concerned provides information on points such as the beginning and previous duration of the inflammation. In combination with factors from a patient’s recent medical history, this can already give the doctor treating you the first indications of the underlying causes.

If, for example, there is a suspicion that cheilitis was caused by pathogens, this can be checked using a swab on the affected tissue. Various pathogens can also be identified on the basis of a stool sample. Allergy testing can provide clues to cheilitis as a possible allergic reaction. An existing iron deficiency as the cause of cheilitis can be checked by a blood test.

The course of a cheilitis depends, among other things, on the causes of the inflammation and the medical measures taken. If the cause of a cheilitis can be clearly determined, the inflammation can be successfully combated in many cases.

When should you go to the doctor?

Skin changes on the lips that do not go away after a week at the latest should be examined by a doctor and treated if necessary. If symptoms such as chapped or burning lips and lumps or swellings appear at the corners of the mouth, an immediate clarification is indicated. This is especially true if the symptoms cause trouble speaking or eating. Allergy sufferers, especially people with allergies to certain foods or cosmetics, should go to their family doctor with the symptoms mentioned .

If left untreated, the disease can, in the worst case, cause permanent tissue damage. In addition, the difficult food intake can lead to undersupply and dehydration. Therefore, the following applies: go to the doctor at the first sign of inflammation. This can determine whether cheilitis is present and then suggest a suitable therapy. Sometimes it is enough to change one’s lifestyle and pay attention to a healthy diet and sufficient exercise. Sometimes, however, cheilitis has serious causes that cannot be treated without medical help.

Treatment & Therapy

Therapeutic steps in the treatment of cheilitis primarily depend on the causes of the inflammatory disease. If, for example, the cheilitis is caused by an allergy to certain foods, the attending physician usually recommends a change in diet, in which the corresponding components should be largely avoided.

A change in diet is often useful if cheilitis was caused by iron deficiency; if an existing iron deficiency cannot be adequately compensated for through food intake in individual cases, the administration of food supplements can be useful.

If infections have led to cheilitis, a targeted fight against the corresponding pathogens usually takes place. If, for example , bacteria are responsible for a corresponding infection, such a fight can be carried out, among other things, by the local application of antibiotic ointments.

If certain medications have led to cheilitis occurring, the doctor treating you will often change the medication. If there are tissue changes in a patient as the cause of cheilitis, it may make sense, depending on the medical assessment, to surgically remove the corresponding changes.

Outlook & Forecast

Cheilitis has a favorable prognosis. Patients with a healthy and stable immune system experience relief from symptoms and subsequent healing of the disease a few days after drug treatment. If there are no sequelae, the patient is cured and released from therapy in a short time.

In some cases, the cracks in the skin lead to further skin problems or the penetration of additional pathogens. The good prognosis changes dramatically as soon as blood poisoning occurs. In these situations, the patient’s life is in danger, which requires immediate action.

To remain symptom free, the cause of the cheilitis must be diagnosed and treated. A deficient supply of the organism can be treated and treated well. If there is an allergic reaction, the patient must permanently avoid the triggering stimulus. A change in diet often leads to recovery.

If the patient has an infection or other inflammation, it must be treated. Afterwards, the cheilitis can also heal. The weaker the person affected and the more intense the underlying disease, the less favorable the prognosis. In the worst case, surgery is performed to remove the cheilitis. This treatment path is usually chosen in the case of a tissue disease.


Since the possible causes of cheilitis are very diverse, comprehensive prevention is difficult. However, the risk of cheilitis occurring can be reduced, for example, by avoiding/combatting nutritional deficiency symptoms. Boosting the body’s immune system also helps prevent infection with pathogens that can subsequently cause cheilitis.


In most cases, the patient with cheilitis has only a few direct follow-up measures available. The further course of the disease depends very much on the exact cause of the disease, so that the underlying disease must be treated first and foremost. The affected person should consult a doctor at the first signs of cheilitis in order to prevent further complications and symptoms, since self-healing cannot occur in this case.

Treatment is usually by taking medication. The patient should always ensure that the medication is taken regularly and that the dosage is correct in order to properly alleviate the symptoms. In some cases, the diet must also be changed, and the doctor can also draw up a nutrition plan.

Furthermore, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet has a positive effect on the course of cheilitis. In some cases, surgical interventions are also necessary, after which, however, no special aftercare is required. Whether the cheilitis leads to a reduced life expectancy of the patient cannot be universally predicted.

You can do that yourself

What the patient can do against a lip infection depends on the trigger. In the case of systemic causes such as diabetes mellitus, immune deficiency or an insufficient supply of iron, the best way to help yourself is to regularly change your lifestyle. Obesity , an unhealthy diet , little sleep and excessive consumption of alcohol and nicotine are counterproductive .

On the other hand, a diet rich in vitamins and fiber , avoiding meat and sausage products and convenience products and regular exercise in the fresh air have a beneficial effect. If you have a severe iron deficiency , you should take dietary supplements.

If the cheilitis is an allergic reaction, the triggers must be identified and avoided. Fruit, especially conventionally grown fruit, should always be washed well and ideally peeled, as the pesticides used in agriculture are often responsible for allergic reactions in and around the mouth.

Lip inflammation can also be triggered by UV rays. In these cases, the lips must be treated with a sunscreen . For this purpose, lip care sticks with a sun protection factor are available on the market.

Regardless of the cause of the disorder, blisters and ulcers should be swabbed regularly with alcohol to prevent secondary infections. The same applies to cheilitis at the corners of the mouth . These can be treated very well with medicinal zinc ointment from the pharmacy or drugstore.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.