Chapped, or cracked, lips is the term
commonly used to describe dry lips. Chapped lips can be caused by several
factors, that include:
- excessive licking of the lips certain medications
Chapped lips are a common condition that only
occurs for most people. But some people may develop a more severe form of
chapped lips called cheilitis. Cheilitis can be caused by an infection,
characterized by cracked skin at the corners of the lips.
You can usually treat dry lips with simple
treatment and preventive measures. If your lips continue to be severely dry and
cracked, you should consider make an appointment with a dermatologist.
of chapped lips
You may experience any of the following
symptoms on or around your lips:
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.
Another common cause of chapped lips is
habitual licking. Saliva from the tongue can further strip the lips of
moisture, causing more dryness.
factors for chapped lips
Everyone can get chapped lips, particularly
if they have dry skin.
Taking certain medications can also increase
your risk of developing chapped lips. Medications and supplements that can
cause chapped lips include:
- vitamin A
- retinoids (Retin-A, Differin)
- lithium (commonly used to treat bipolar disorder)
- chemotherapy drugs
People who are dehydrated or malnourished are
also more likely to have chapped lips than other people. Call your doctor if
either of these are associated with your chapped lips—dehydration and
malnutrition are both serious conditions that require immediate medical
to seek medical treatment
If the severe dryness and cracking doesn’t
improve with self-care, you should see a dermatologist. Cheilitis is often to
blame for severely chapped lips. This is a condition marked by cracked skin at
the mouth corners and several cracks on your lips.
If you have this condition, your lips may:
- be dark pink or red in color
- have a lumpy texture
- develop ulcers
- have white plaques on the surface
Cheilitis is often attributed to infections
and inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease. Dental trauma and excessive
saliva production may also turn a regular case of chapped lips into cheilitis.
Bacteria can enter through the cracks and cause infection. Adults and children
who have orthodontic braces, wear dentures, or use pacifiers are all
susceptible to developing cheilitis.
A dermatologist can determine whether your
dry lips are simply chapped or if you have cheilitis.
Dry lips can also be caused by dehydration or malnutrition. Dehydration
causes symptoms including:
- decreased urine production
- dry mouth
In severe cases, a person suffering from
dehydration may experience low blood pressure, fever, rapid breathing, or a
Malnutrition is characterized by many of the
same symptoms as dehydration. Additional symptoms can include:
- muscle weakness
- decaying teeth
- bloated stomach
- bone fragility
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.
People with alcohol addiction are also more
susceptible to malnutrition due to vitamin deficiencies because excessive
alcohol use can interfere with the body’s vitamin absorption. Older adults are
also at higher risk for malnutrition because decreased appetite is common.
If you suspect you are dehydrated or
malnourished, see your doctor right away.
to treat and prevent chapped lips
Chapped lips can usually be treated at home.
The first step is to make sure that your lips have enough moisture. This can be
- applying lip balm throughout the day
- drinking more water
- using a humidifier at home
- avoiding cold weather conditions or wrapping your mouth with a
Sun exposure can also cause chapped lips,
especially as you age. Apply a lip balm that contains a minimum SPF 15 before
heading outdoors. The balm helps to moisturize the lips and the sunscreen
minimizes further drying effects.