Our skin is surrounded by a hydro-lipid film all over our body, which keeps it from drying out – except on the lips. They have no sweat glands and hardly any sebum that would supply them with moisture and fat. In addition, the horny layer on the lips is many times thinner than on other parts of the body, which makes it all the more sensitive to external influences. This means that they can become brittle, especially in the cold season. It becomes particularly painful when the corners of the mouth are torn: this is also known as angular rhinitis.
What is angular cheilitis?
With angular rhinitis, the skin in the corners of the mouth tears and becomes inflamed. In common parlance, this is also referred to as lazy licks, which typically appear on both sides. The spots also scale and crusts sometimes form.
The injuries are very painful when they come into contact with spicy foods and acidic foods such as lemons or salad dressings that contain vinegar. And since the mouth moves a lot, the wounds heal poorly and often tear deeper when eating, yawning, or laughing.
In the case of angular tumors, also called lazy licks, the skin in the corners of the mouth tears and becomes inflamed. It is painful and burns when eating spicy and sour foods.
How do cracked corners of the mouth come about?
In winter, the change between cold and warm heated air is a strain on the lips: They quickly lose moisture and become brittle. If you then constantly run your tongue over your lips when you feel dry and tight, the problem will only worsen. The reason for this is that when the saliva evaporates, it removes moisture from the delicate skin and angular rhinitis can develop.
But not only temperature differences and lip licking are possible causes, but very different factors that at the same time have a negative effect on healing. These include:
- With age, deep wrinkles often form between the upper and lower lip. Badly fitting dentures produce more saliva which, as a result of deep wrinkles, collects in the corners of the mouth and softens the skin there. Last but not least, minor injuries when inserting the denture can lead to lazy licks.
- Microbes such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses are part of the normal range of germs in the oral cavity. You feel at home in a moist environment and have an easy job when the skin barrier is damaged: a fungal infection creates encrusted cracks with a whitish coating, while a bacterial infection causes yellow-brownish crusts. It is not uncommon for both species to nestle.
- In atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, the skin’s barrier function is already disrupted – and those affected are more prone to torn corners of the mouth. The same applies to diabetics: inside because with them the wounds generally heal worse. People with a weakened immune system are also more susceptible.
- A lack of vitamins or minerals can also be the reason. This mainly applies to vitamins B2, B6, B12, and iron. In some cases, lazy corners also indicate celiac disease: If gluten intolerance is not treated, the small intestine is chronically inflamed and can hardly absorb iron. Affected people are pale, feel tired, and have an angular disease.
Triggers are cold and wet, but also ill-fitting dentures, infections with germs, or micronutrient deficiencies. In addition, immunocompromised people or people with diabetes, neurodermatitis, psoriasis, or celiac disease are more prone to lazy licks.
Clarify the causes and have them treated
If the angular disease does not heal after a few days or if it occurs more frequently, those affected should seek medical advice. If you wear a badly fitting denture, the dentist can: improve the fit on the inside. Otherwise, general practitioners or dermatologists can help. The specialist can, for example, ask whether there are any underlying illnesses and whether you have any other symptoms. Depending on the possible trigger, additional tests will be carried out, including a smear from the affected area or a blood sample.
A special ointment will help against a fungal attack or bacterial infection. If the blood test confirms a slight vitamin or mineral deficiency, a change in diet is usually sufficient, while severe deficits can be remedied with targeted substitution. However, it does not make sense if you take dietary supplements on the go, because they can sometimes be harmful: if you take too much vitamin B6, for example, there is a risk of nerve damage. Iron supplements also weaken the effect of some drugs.
In the case of persistent or recurring angular cheek disease, those affected should seek medical advice in order to track down the cause and treat it specifically.
What quickly helps with torn corners of the mouth?
In addition to medical treatment, you can support the healing yourself. The most important thing is to keep the corners of your mouth dry: wipe the area regularly and gently with a soft tissue. To disinfect cracks and reduce inflammation, you can treat sores with sage tea. Soak a cotton ball with the infusion and dab the affected areas several times a day. Zinc pastes are also suitable because they absorb moisture, keep the skin dry, and promote wound healing.
If you have a tendency to frequently wet your lips with your tongue, it is important to avoid doing this. Use lip balancing products instead. Formulations with jojoba oil, evening primrose oil, or shea butter can lock the moisture in the thin cornea and keep the lips supple over the long term. In this way, the skin in the corners of the mouth remains elastic and does not tear as quickly.
Not only care products optimally supply the lips with moisture, but drinking is also important. So that our body is supplied with sufficient fluid, it should be at least 1.5 liters per day. The best thirst quencher is water, but infused water, unsweetened fruit, and herbal teas are also good choices.
In order for the tears to heal quickly, it is important to keep the corners of the mouth dry and to lubricate the lips regularly. In addition, zinc paste and sage tea promise relief. Drink at least 1.5 liters a day to keep the whole body well hydrated.
Torn corners of the mouth: remedy the deficiency
In order not to unnecessarily irritate the sore spots, you should avoid spicy and sour foods. Instead, indulge in zinc-rich foods because the trace element stimulates wound healing from within. Great sources are beef, hard cheese, nuts, and seeds, followed by spelled, oatmeal and legumes. Remember, however, that pulses and whole grains also contain a lot of phytic acids, which bind zinc in the digestive tract and thus hinder its absorption in the intestine. However, if you soak, ferment, or sprout whole grains and legumes, the nutrient thief breaks down.
If an iron deficiency is to blame for the symptoms, it is important to improve the diet. Amaranth, oatmeal, legumes, pumpkin seeds, beef, and spinach bring a good load of iron. However, our body is less able to absorb trace elements from plant sources. The problem can be solved, however, if you drink a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice with your meal or nibble on a piece of paprika: The vitamin C it contains increases the absorption of the mineral three to four times.
A vitamin B deficiency can usually be remedied through a balanced diet: B2 is hidden in meat, fish, milk, cheese, mushrooms, and whole-grain products. Vitamin B6 is also found in many meat, fish, and whole-grain products, but is also found in legumes and cabbage vegetables. Vitamin B12 is only found in sufficient quantities in animal foods, including meat, fish, eggs, and cheese. For this reason, vegans cannot avoid a vitamin B12 supplement in order to avoid deficits.
Spicy and sour foods irritate wounds, while foods rich in zinc such as meat, cheese, and whole grains encourage healing. An iron or vitamin B deficiency can be remedied with a smart diet; Vegans: however, must supplement vitamin B12.
Knowledge to take away
If the skin in the corners of the mouth tears and becomes inflamed, experts speak of angular rhinitis, commonly referred to as lazy licks. People who already suffer from a weak immune system, diabetes, neurodermatitis, psoriasis, or untreated celiac disease are more susceptible to this. Sometimes vitamin B or iron deficiency is also the trigger.
Permanent moisture can also promote torn corners of the mouth, for example, if the dentures do not fit properly, saliva flows into the corners of the mouth and softens the skin there. If the skin barrier is disturbed, bacteria, fungi, and viruses have an easy job. If the angular disease does not heal after a few days or if it occurs more frequently, those affected should seek medical advice. This is the only way to identify the specific cause and treat it accordingly.
In order for the wounds to heal quickly, the most important measure is to drain the area. Zinc paste and sage tea also alleviate the symptoms, while lip care products that replenish the skin make the skin elastic again. In addition, foods rich in zinc, such as meat, cheese, and whole grains, aid healing. An iron or vitamin B deficiency can be remedied with a wise choice of food. However, it becomes problematic when those affected follow a vegan diet: Significant amounts of vitamin B12 are only found in foods of animal origin. Targeted supplementation is therefore advisable.