Q. I struggled with a condition called angular cheilitis for 60 years. From the time I was five years old until two years ago I had redness, irritation and cracks at the corners of my mouth.
When my family doctor tested my vitamin D level the result came back showing that I was highly deficient. My score was 12. I believe 20 is considered barely normal and 30 to 50 is optimal.
My doctor had me start taking 2,000 IU of the vitamin D3 and the first thing I noticed was that the corners of my mouth were no longer cracking and sore or bleeding. Since then I have continued to take 2,000 IUs and have had a flare-up only once, when I was traveling and neglected to take my pills.
I mentioned the connection between vitamin D and angular cheilitis on a recent visit to a dermatologist, and he dismissed what I told him, saying it was rare for vitamin D to help something like this. Perhaps I am a rare bird, but I swear that taking vitamin D has healed what was a lifelong problem for me.

A. Cracks in the corner of the mouth can be incredibly uncomfortable. These splits can crust over or bleed if they go deep enough. The medical terms for this condition include:

  • Angular cheilitis
  • Perleche
  • Cheilosis
  • Angular stomatitis

It is not entirely clear what causes these fissures to form, though nutritional deficiencies are sometimes blamed. Low levels of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) are sometimes suspected as a contributing factor. Ditto for zinc and iron. We have not heard of a link between low levels of vitamin D and angular cheilitis. We did find one fascinating study, however, demonstrating that a vitamin D ointment called calcipotriol (Dovonex) that is used to treat psoriasis worked extremely well to treat a somewhat similar condition called leukoplakia (white patches on gums or tongue).
Doctors also believe that a fungal infection (Candida albicans) may contribute to both angular cheilitis and leukoplakia. Bacteria may also play a role in the lesions in the corner of the mouth. That may be why Listerine with its high alcohol content and anti-fungal essential oils may help some people. Here are some other stories from visitors to this site:

“I used to suffer from these painful, raw cracks in corners of my mouth. My dentist suggested I use an inexpensive over-the-counter anti-fungus cream (such as athlete’s foot cream). Within a week the cracks healed, and I haven’t been bothered since.”
Phyllis


“I have had angular cheilitis for about a year and a half now. I went to my Dr. after 3 months of trying numerous things to heal my mouth. I told her that I thought it was angular cheilitis after researching it. She laughed at me and said that the last time she saw something like that, it was an allergy to some food. She gave me an antibiotic which did nothing and then another prescription (I don’t even remember what it was) that also did nothing. I was miserable.
“I went for my regular dental check up and told my dentist. She told me that it was angular cheilitis and gave me a prescription for nystatin and triamcinolone acetonide. It cleared it up right away. She also told me that many people that get this seem to be low in iron. I had already started taking a multivitamin with iron. The medication cleared it up but it continually comes back. I would really like to get rid of it for good. I take Vitamin B Complex every morning and a multivitamin with iron at night.
“I have tried all kinds of “remedies” including: apple cider vinegar on the corners of my mouth, Mentholatum on them, changing my toothbrush and my toothpaste, using moisturizer on my lips, cold sore medication, and anything else I’ve read. This condition is miserable and I would love to get rid of it permanently.”
Laura


“I had the same problem & found that each morning I could put rubbing alcohol on a tissue and blot each mouth corner and I still do this 1 or 2 times a week & have had no re-occurrence in the last 4-5 years.”

L.H.


“Several decades ago, my grandmother suffered from cracked skin at the corners of her mouth. She was found to be deficient in riboflavin, as I recall.”
Linda


“I used to have this all the time until I started using the cracks as a indicator that I needed more Vit B – now if cracks start to develop I take one “balanced B” vitamin and by the next day the cracks are either gone or on their way out.”
MAM


“Suggestion: put on Listerine (or Vicks VapoRub – outside/external area) mouth wash several time a day on the craks. It is both antifungal and antibacterial. After a week or so the problem should be gone.”
C.P.M.T.


“I tried many lip soothers, sticks, and balms, for months to heal chapped, cracked lips. I even got a prescription for Duke’s ‘Magic Mouthwash.’ Nothing completely healed my lips. I read your newspaper article about Mentholatum ointment and I tried it on my cracked, chapped, sore lower lip for about a week. It healed it and the lip looks and feels normal.”
M.V.


“I asked my dentist to prescribe something after suffering for a couple of weeks with cracks in the corner or my mouth. I had been using Aquaphor a medicated salve. He prescribed an anti fungal cream. So the Listerine and Vicks sound like a good answer. I take a multi B vitamin every day so don’t think I have a deficiency.”
Pauline


“I don’t have any immune problems and am a 31-yr-old healthy individual. I however occasionally suffer from angular cheilitis (I’ve had 3 episodes in the last 3 or 4 years). I think I am just prone to this type of fungal infection.
By sheer luck and experimentation I learned that applying old-fashioned amber Listerine to the affected area helps clear up the problem within a few days. I once got a prescription for anti-fungal cream from a doctor and Listerine even outperformed that!”
J.S.


If you would like to learn more about vitamin D and the way to test for deficiency of this nutrient and optimal levels to take, we offer our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. It is available for download for $2. You may also find our Guide to Unique Uses of Vicks of value.
We would love to hear your story about tips for healing dry lips and angular cheilitis. You can comment below so others can benefit from your experience.

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  1. Dennis
    Houston
    Reply

    I was afraid I had contracted an STI (or STD). Very embarrassing. Before going to the doctor I decided to go on line and typed in sore in corner of the mouth and this site came up. I was relieved to find out what the problem really was and what caused it. I read about using nystatin and triamcinolone acetonide ointment to clear up the problem and happened to have some of that left over for something else (I think maybe poison ivy?). I tried it and within two days time the problem was solved. I’ve also started taking more Vit. B and being more religious about taking my multiple vitamins. Once Blue Bell comes back on the market I’ll be getting more Vit. D as well. Thanks for having this post up! Oh – I had also tried campho phenique but it didn’t help at all.

  2. Liz
    midwest usa
    Reply

    Get California Baby Calendula cream from the baby section at Target and a few other retailers. As long as I keep this stuff on I am fine. It cures the cracks and helps with the itching better then nystatin and curad silver. It’s a lot safer to use and I smear it on my lips without worry. The root of this is a Candida overgrowth in your whole body. One day maybe this will be recognized by the medical community.

  3. Andy
    Wales
    Reply

    I get mine mainly in the winter months, I am sure I am not alone in not wanting to go out of the house when I get this, sometimes mine has lasted for months, very frustrating.

    I had a flare up a few days ago, and thought “great the world has stopped again!”

    Here is what I did and within 3 days it has nearly cleared using this simple method:

    In the morning, after you have had breakfast & a wash-
    Get a sheet of toilet roll paper or tissue and wet it, dab a little bit on the lip that is causing you problems, brush your teeth, tongue (which I do anyway) & roof of mouth (I thought what? it does help though) also under your tongue.

    Then, get a different sheet of tissue and some anti bacterial soap, wet the tissue and put a bit of the soap on the tissue and clean the cut & where it is red around the lip, then dry the affected area.

    Get a teaspoon of salt and put this into a standard sized cup, stir so the salt dissolves then take a swig as though it is mouthwash and rinse for 30 seconds, then get an ear bud and soak it in the salt water and apply around the effected areas for about 30 seconds, the lip dries pretty much straight away, then do this once maybe twice more.

    Last step is to put vaseline around the affected areas, obviously not inside your mouth though.

    Repeat these step again around dinner time if you can, then an hour or so before bed.

    Honestly this process has been the best one I have followed, and I have tried allsorts, for it to have nearly healed in 4 days is pretty amazing by my standards.

    Good luck if you follow this

  4. pat
    usa
    Reply

    What was written helped a lot. I shall try some of those methods. Thank you

  5. Bll
    England
    Reply

    I’m not going to add anything necessarily new to the discussion, but this has been my experience of Angular Cheilitis.

    The first time I developed Angular Cheilitis was about 5 years ago and stupidly by not going to the doctor, or not knowing what it was, for three/four months I tried everything – tea tree oil, vitamin e oil, moisturiser, aloe vera gel… Eventually it went, but it took months of misery and embarrassment, I could feel it the whole time, the fissures ripping etc. During that period, I have no idea if what I was doing helped, or if it cured itself, but it went and I forgot about it. My own fault in many ways, because I didn’t seek medical advice, or do much research into what it was.

    Then, about 3 weeks ago I had another outbreak of Angular Cheilitis. For the first couple of weeks I was just using aloe vera gel, which seemed to calm the inflammation and the condition didn’t seem to get too bad, but the aloe vera was not getting rid of it. I still had the cracks in the corner of my mouth.

    So I decided to do a bit of research and started using Canesten cream (An antifungal medicine used to treat infections with fungi and yeasts), which I applied liberally about 5 times a day. Yes I did look a bit stupid with white cream in the corner of my mouth, but three days later, the cracks healed, the redness was going, the skin was recovering very well. After four days, I reduced the amount of cream to about 3 applications a day and that is where I currently am. I think I will stop in a day, or so because the improvement has been amazing.

    I also bought some vitamin B2, which I am taking daily, so hopefully this will help in the longer term.

  6. Joy
    Georgia
    Reply

    I was told by a dermatologist that I have perleche a nd a second opinion by another, cause it wasn’t healing, said yeast was trapping overnight in the corner of my mouth. I never got to the cracking stage. I was given pills, yeast cream and anti fungal cream, and the listerene. It didn’t help fast enough( lingering after 7 weeks) I remembered my moms old time remedy of lathering up a bar of Ivory soap and patting on the place. She did for poison oak. It worked on the place and dried up in a couple of days. It’s worth a try.

  7. Jean
    California
    Reply

    I had this years ago when there were a lot of stressors in my life. The doctor prescribed vitamin b complex. It cleared up and now about 20 years later with no stressors it is back. One article suggested not to use expired sunscreen lip balm which I have been doing lately. I am throwing it out today. I saw on amazon curad silver cream and many reviews saying it cured it for them. I am going to try it. Neosporin helped a little and some Vicks. I will wait for my Curad silver cream to come soon.

  8. vt
    Bangalore
    Reply

    I used clotrimazole cream. It is instant relief. And only for external use at the corner of the lips.

  9. zahra
    United Kingdom
    Reply

    I have had this condition for about a month. At first, I thought if I leave it alone it will go away on its own but it didn’t. Was really painful and the dry skin was really embarrassing for me. Anyway, I decided to ask the pharmacist. She asked if I was taking multi-vitamins and said I may have it because I’m lacking something. She gave me Blistex. It was only £2/£3 and It has really worked. I’ve only used it twice for 2 days (it recommends applying every hour) and the cuts have healed and the area around my mouth is improving. My lips are also softer. DO TRY IT!

  10. Barbie
    NJ
    Reply

    Listerine applied with a cotton ball helped my husband after only 3-4 applications.

  11. TalkingTinaD
    South Carolina
    Reply

    I started developing this condition over the last 3-5 years. It seems to be recurring, every so often- which doesn’t surprise me due to lots of stressors in my life including auto-immune issues, allergies, and dermatitis. Essentially I have dysautonomia, and am not the best at cobsistently taking medications or supplements, mostly due to financial issues. In general, I tend to be low in iron, B vitamins & vitamin D. So I will try to work on keeping the supplements up; but I wanted to share what ultimately helped me with the cracks at the corners if my mouth. Kank-A, a product by Blistex™ Or similar products to treat canker sores, because health care information sites kept mentioning that the corners of the mouth are moist area & move which makes it hard to keep covered long enough for the healing to take place, so it occurred to me that if some canker sore treatments are able to cover areas inside the mouth, that it might be able to seal the corners of the lips too. It worked wonderfully & finally healed in three days what I had tried to heal in 3 weeks with Aquaphor and balms and even L-lysine.

    The last time I put yhe canker sore treatment on at the first sign of cracking & it was gone in 24 hours.

    Maybe this will help someone else with this challenging condition.

  12. Ash
    California
    Reply

    I have this horrible condition right now and it sucks so much, but I put dental gel on it and it temporarily stopped the pain, but now it feels hot. I’m going to put some more on and see if it works.

  13. Hillary
    California
    Reply

    I have suffered from angular chelitis on and off my entire life (I’m 39). My dermatologist prescribed Desonide cream .05% and Ketoconazole 2% cream, which are applied one at a time, with waiting in between. These work really well together if the flare-up is bad (use the Desonide first, and then the Keto- but sparingly as it is very drying).
    But honestly, I have learned through much trial and error (and eliminating and then reintroducing sweets and foods) that if I STAY AWAY FROM SUGAR the corners of my mouth stay perfect. Doing this has been life-changing for me. If I slip up, I’ll immediately take Lysine, which I also swear by. By doing this I have hardly even touched the prescription medications at all. Try not eating anything with sugar in it for a while and see if you notice a difference!

  14. JD
    Reply

    I apply sweet oil ( a form of olive oil over-the counter at the pharmacy) on a cotton ball and wipe my lips and mouth corners after brushing my teeth. Then I apply a layer of Vaseline on my lips. Seems to help. I too take a multi vitamin and B-complex.

  15. stacie
    us
    Reply

    I have suffered with this for years. I will go months with cracked corners of my mouth. My last ordeal with it lasted 3 months and went away around the time I was on antibiotics for a tooth. I was free of this problem for about a month and then two days ago the corner of my mouth started to crack again. I found this blog entry about how a person used cortisone ointment, not cream, on her angular cheilitis. I bought some yesterday, and it already seems to be healing. I want to tell the whole world about it!!

  16. Jay
    pa
    Reply

    I recently had a moderate to sever case of angular Cheilitis. Nothing was helping. In the end it took keeping dry with corn starch, as well as washing it with dish soap and coating with petroleum twice per day. Healed in about 2 1/2 weeks after I started treatment. I also was taking b vitamins and putting anti- fungal cream on it . Personally I thing the dish soap and salve did it more than anything. After wash with dish soap, dry with paper towel, let dry out for 15 minutes before applying salve. I had it for almost 3 months total.

  17. Robert
    Fort Worth
    Reply

    As I became an adult I began getting cracks on the corners of my mouth but ONLY during the colder months, I tried a few things nothing worked, however taking a good multivitamin or in my specific case VITAMIN B cleared it up

    Take a Multivitamin daily as well a B vitamin and you will not have any issues.

  18. Nikki
    NJ
    Reply

    I recently went to my doctor for what was diagnosed as angular chelitis. I had blood work done and my Vitamin D level was 12. I was given 50,000IU of Vitamin D once a week for 8 weeks. Within a day or two of the first pill it cleared up. I took it for the 8 weeks and my skin looked wonderful all over my face. Once I was done I never went back to get follow up blood work and didn’t take a maintenance Vitamin D dose. 2 months later- it’s back and I’m back on the Vitamin D. I also take Vitamin B daily.

    I swear by Vitamin D to cure angular chelitis.

  19. devika
    india
    Reply

    I have been suffering from this problem for the past two years. I am tired of acquaintances asking how my lips look permanently swollen and red. Sometimes people talk to me and are only looking at my lips. It’s embarrassing. Can someone please suggest a cure to this problem? I have applied many creams but they have proved to be ineffective.

    • John F
      CA
      Reply

      I never got this before but I had to go on several consecutive doses of antibiotics and then I had this a lot. I found Lotrimin cream helped a lot. Also a clear natural aloe vera gel dabbed on the corners every few hours and before I go to bed significantly increases healing time. I also will use clean hands and apply some regular chapstick (so I don’t infect the tube I am using). that helps a great deal. I also take a lot of regular multi vitamins and supplement with B complex, which seems to keep it more at bay. I feel like I am treating the symptoms but I just read that you need to keep applying the cream even up to 2 weeks after the symptoms have cleared and I haven’t tried that yet so now I will. Maybe that will do the trick. I’m going to increase vitamin D as the poster mentioned above.

  20. Cyrille
    Reply

    After getting a temporary bridge, my dentist told me to use dental floss every day.
    I did that, and after a week or so, I started to get the Angular Cheilitis disease. So I guess it’s probably because the dental floss procedure generates more saliva from the mouth that eventually gathers around the lips corners.

  21. CarolCA
    Reply

    I have the cracking at the corners every few years. It used to be that you could buy Riboflavin alone but for some reason you can’t anymore so you have to buy the B-50 now. A couple days of that and they are gone for me for years. Until I found the Riboflavin treatment in an old Adele Davis(?) book nothing worked. I have given this tip to many people and it always worked.

  22. LA
    Reply

    Even when I was a child I would get angular chelitis, though I didn’t know that was the name of this condition. My mother would tell me it was because I did not wipe the corners of my mouth after eating, which was not true. Thank goodness after decades of suffering with this condition, I finally found the way to prevent it: B vitamins. After having some routine bloodwork done as part of a physical exam, I discovered my B vitamin level was extremely low. So I started taking B vitamins for that reason… and guess what: I stopped having angular chelitis outbreaks!
    I take a B complex vitamin as well as B12 supplement every day. If I neglect to take these vitamins, even just for a couple of days, without fail the angular chelitis comes right back. I really hope this helps other people because having A.C. is just horrible. It physically hurts, but it also hurts your self confidence to have those ugly cracks on the side of your mouth.

  23. Mo B.
    Reply

    As a child, I had red cracks at the corners of my mouth, and was spreading.
    My teacher told me to wash my face AFTER I brush my teeth.
    Cured.

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