Cheilitis glandularis

What is angular cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis is an erythematous fissuring (characterized by redness due to inflammation or infection) at one or both corners of the mouth, and is usually associated with a candidal (fungal) infection inside the mouth. Other organisms implicated are staphylococci and streptococci. It typically occurs in individuals with accentuated skinfolds and salivary pooling in the corners of the mouth, leading to a chronically moist environment that predisposes to the condition. Other factors implicated in the cause of this condition are iron deficiency anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency. Risk factors may include impaired salivary gland function, drugs, dentures, high carbohydrate diet, and extremes of life, smoking, diabetes mellitus, Cushing's syndrome, malignancies, and immunosuppressive conditions. Management involves taking a history, an examination, and appropriate antifungal treatment. In certain high risk individuals, antifungal prophylaxis reduces the incidence and severity of infections. The prognosis is typically good in the majority of cases.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What conditions may be part of the differential diagnosis of cheilitis glandularis?

Some conditions that may be considered when an individual is evaluated for symptoms that occur with cheilitis glandularis may include:

Last updated on 05-01-20

How might cheilitis glandularis be treated?

The approach to treatment for cheilitis glandularis is typically based on information obtained from histopathologic analysis (microscopic examination of the tissue); the identification of the likely causes responsible for the condition; and attempts to alleviate or eradicate those causes. Given the relatively small number of reported cases of the condition, there is not sufficient or reliable data that exists with regard to medical approaches. Therefore, treatment generally varies accordingly for each individual.

  • For cases attributable to angioedema (swelling similar to hives beneath the skin), an antihistamine may help with temporary reduction of acute, nonpurulent (lacking pus) swelling.
  • Suppurative cases (those with pus present) typically require management with appropriate antimicrobial treatment as determined by culture and sensitivity testing. Concomitant corticosteroid treatment may increase the effectiveness of antimicrobial therapy in cases with nodularity; however, the potential adverse effects of long-term corticosteroid treatment, and because it can promote local fibrosis and scarring, limit its potential use either as an adjunct to antibiotic treatment or as a single therapeutic modality.
  • Topical 5-fluorouracil is useful for treatment of dysplastic actinic cheilitis and to curtail its progression. In conjunction with clinical supervision, it can be prescribed as an alternative to vermilionectomy (sometimes called a lip shave) or as a preventative measure following vermilionectomy.

In cheilitis glandularis cases in which a history of chronic sun exposure exists (especially if the individual is fair skinned or the everted lip surface is chronically eroded, ulcerated, or crusted), biopsy is strongly recommended to rule out actinic cheilitis or carcinoma.

  • Surgical excision is typically not necessary when the diagnosis is actinic cheilitis with atypia or only mild dysplasia; however, individuals require ongoing clinical vigilance at regular intervals and instruction in measures to protect the lips from further sun damage.
  • Treatment options for cases of actinic cheilitis with moderate-to-severe dysplasia include surgical stripping or vermilionectomy, cryosurgery or laser surgery, or topical chemotherapy with 5-fluorouracil. Given the potential for recurrence and the risk for development of carcinoma, sun protective measures and regular clinical monitoring should be instituted.
  • In cases in which eversion, extensive fibrosis, and induration have resulted in lip incompetence with functional and cosmetic compromise, chronic pain, and surface disruption, surgical cheiloplasty (lip reduction) may be indicated to restore normal lip architecture and function. Cheiloplasty is also a prophylactic measure for reducing the risk of actinic injury.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Name: American Academy of Dermatology 1445 New York Ave, NW Suite 800
Washington, DC, 20005, United States
Toll Free: 888-462-DERM (3376) Fax : 847-240-1859 Email: Url:
Name: British Association of Dermatologists 19 Fitzroy Square London, UK W1T 6EH
United Kingdom
Phone: 0207 383 0266 Fax : 0207 388 5263 Email: Url:

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