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Cheilosis/Cheilitis

What Is It?
Symptoms
Diagnosis
Expected Duration
Prevention
Treatment
When To Call a Professional
Prognosis

What Is It?

Cheilosis is a painful inflammation and cracking of the corners of the mouth. It also is called cheilitis. It sometimes occurs on only one side of the mouth, but usually involves both sides.

Cheilosis is caused by a yeast (Candida) infection. The yeast grows easily in moisture that collects in skin folds at the corner of the mouth. Cheilosis occurs most often in people with ill-fitting dentures. The dentures may not separate the upper and lower jaws far enough. People who lick, rub or otherwise irritate the corners of the mouth also tend to develop cheilosis.

People with health disorders such as anemia, diabetes and immune deficiencies are particularly vulnerable.

Symptoms

Cracking, painful inflammation and sometimes weeping at the corners of the mouth.

Diagnosis

Your dentist or physician first will look to see if your dentures fit well. He or she also will ask about your oral habits, such as licking the corners of your mouth. You may get blood tests to see if you have anemia or an immune deficiency. Your dentist also may test a smear or culture from the area for bacterial or yeast infections.

Expected Duration

Once the underlying cause is corrected, healing usually is quick.

Prevention

If you wear dentures, visit your dentist regularly to be sure they fit and support your face well. Avoid licking or rubbing the corners of your mouth.

Treatment

Treatment focuses on eliminating causes. You may need to stop oral habits or get better-fitting dentures. You may apply medicine directly to the affected area to treat an infection. This could be a steroid, antifungal or antibacterial medicine. For severe infections, you may need to take antifungal pills. This is most likely in people with underlying medical problems.

When To Call a Professional

If you have constant or repeat inflammation in the corners of your mouth, contact your dentist or physician.

Prognosis

Good, once the cause has been eliminated.

©2002-2013 Aetna, Inc. All rights reserved.

09/16/2013

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