Chapped Lips

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Definition

What are chapped lips?

Your lips are chapped when they become dry, scaly, or cracked, which can happen for a number of reasons. Chapped lips can be irritating and even painful.

Cheilitis is the medical term for severely scaly, cracked, or inflamed skin on or around the lips.

How common are chapped lips?

Chapped lips are a common condition that only occurs for most people. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of chapped lips?

The common symptoms of chapped lips are:

  • Dryness
  • Flaking
  • Scales
  • Sores
  • Swelling
  • Cracks
  • Bleeding

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If the severe dryness and cracking doesn’t improve with self-care, you should see a dermatologist. Contact your doctor as soon as possible if your lips:

  • Are dark pink or red in color
  • Have a lumpy texture
  • Develop ulcers
  • Have white plaques on the surface

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes chapped lips?

Lips don’t contain oil glands like other parts of the skin. This means lips are more susceptible to drying out and becoming chapped (cracked). Lack of moisture can make the problem worse, whether it’s weather-induced or related to a lack of self-care. Little humidity in the air during the winter months is known to cause chapped lips. Frequent sun exposure in the summer can also worsen your condition. Exposing unprotected lips to the sun can lead to inflammation. Long-term exposure causes the lips to become stiff and dry, resulting in cracking or splitting.

Another common cause of chapped lips is habitual licking. Saliva from the tongue can further strip the lips of moisture, causing more dryness.

Some people are sensitive to ingredients in certain foods, and contact with these foods can make the skin on and around the lips feel itchy and inflamed. Common foods in this category are mangos, citrus fruits, and cinnamon.

Some lipsticks, lip balms, and other personal care products — including toothpaste, mouthwash, and sunscreen — contain ingredients that can make the lips feel itchy and irritated.

Dry lips can also be caused by dehydration or malnutrition. This is when your body doesn’t have a sufficient amount of fluid. You can become dehydrated from vomiting, diarrhea, intense sweating, and illness. There’s also the risk of dehydration if you don’t take in enough fluids. Dehydration makes it harder for your body to function properly. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening. Malnutrition can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, so those on limited diets (for example, vegetarians) need to make sure that they are getting enough of the vitamins they need.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for chapped lips?

There are many risk factors for chapped lips, such as:

  • Dry skin
  • Use of certain medications such as vitamin A, retinoids, lithium, and chemotherapy drugs
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Alcohol addiction

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are chapped lips diagnosed?

Most of the time, your doctor may diagnose chapped lips just from observation. He or she will be able to tell whether your dry lips are simply chapped or if you have cheilitis.

How are chapped lips treated?

Chapped lips usually don’t require medical intervention. Home remedies are sufficient to sooth most cases of chapped lips. However, if your lip dryness is caused by cheilitis, you may be prescibed a topical ointment.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage chapped lips?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with chapped lips:

  • Protect your lips. Before going out in cold, dry weather, apply a lubricating lip cream or balm that contains sunscreen — and then cover your lips with a scarf. Reapply often while outdoors.
  • Avoid licking your lips. Saliva evaporates quickly, leaving lips drier than before you licked them. If you tend to lick your lips, avoid flavored lip balm — which may tempt you to lick your lips even more.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, and moisten the air in your home with a humidifier.
  • Avoid allergens. Avoid contact with irritants or allergens, such as fragrances or dyes, in cosmetics or skin care products.
  • Breathe through your nose. Breathing through your mouth can cause your lips to dry out.
  • If your lips bleed, apply a cold compress to stop bleeding and reduce swelling. If you notice crusting or opens sores around your lips, see your doctor.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: February 20, 2019 | Last Modified: February 20, 2019

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