Inflammation of the lips. Causes can include irritated skin, allergies, frequent sun exposure, infection, and autoimmune disease. Dry lips, redness, chapping, and itching are common symptoms. Treatments depend on the cause but can include topical creams and avoid the irritant.
What are Chapped Lips?
Chapped lips, also known as cheilitis, are a common and uncomfortable problem. Home remedies can help get rid of chapped lips without drying them out further.
The skin of the lips is much thinner and more delicate than that of other parts of the body. Lips are also exposed to the elements, including the sun and cold, dry air, which makes them prone to dryness, cracking, flaking, and peeling.
Lips do not have sebaceous glands and therefore cannot produce their own moisture, but natural moisturizers can help.
The skin of the lips is much thinner than elsewhere and also does not have sebaceous glands. This makes them vulnerable to becoming dry and sore. Washing your face with boiling water can strip the lips of their natural oils, making them drier.
Drug side effects
Some medications like antihistamines prescribed for allergies and isotretinoin prescribed for acne have side effects that dry out the lips. The chemotherapy medications and lithium used, to treat bipolar disorder can also cause dry, chapped lips.
Constantly licking your lips is another cause of chapped and dry lips. This is because the saliva that covers the lips contains enzymes to help digest the food we eat. When you frequently lick your lips, the enzymes break down the skin on the lips, causing them to become chapped.
When you frequently lick your lips, it becomes a harsh cycle where the action dries them out and you lick them to control the feeling of dryness, which makes it worse. This can lead to a condition called licker's dermatitis, where symptoms include extreme dryness and redness of the lips.
Low water consumption and weather conditions
If you don't drink enough water or live in a place where the weather is cold and dry, it can crack your lips. Spending long hours in the sun during the warmer months can also dry out your lips. Even when you don't use lip balms to keep your lips hydrated or exfoliate them regularly, they can become chapped and dry.
Health issues like low stomach acid, poor nutrition, and an unhealthy gut can lead to chapped lips. If you are dehydrated, the body will absorb water from the remaining body to hydrate its cells. This can cause constipation and dry skin and lips.
Several tests help physicians identify and diagnose dyspareunia. Your physician will start by creating a complete medical and sexual history. Possible questions your physician may ask you include:
- When and where do you experience pain?
- Which partners or positions cause pain?
- Are other activities causing pain?
- Does your partner want to help you?
- Are there other conditions that may be contributing to your pain?
A pelvic exam is also common in the diagnosis. During this procedure, your doctor will examine the outer and inner pelvic area for signs of:
- inflammation or infection
- anatomical problems
- genital warts
- abnormal masses
The internal exam will require a speculum, a device used to view the vagina during a Pap test. Your doctor may also use a cotton swab to apply gentle pressure to different areas of the vagina. This will help determine the location of the pain.
Initial exams may lead your doctor to order other tests, such as:
- pelvic ultrasound
- culture test to look for bacteria or a yeast infection
- urine test
- allergy test
- tips for determining emotional causes
Treatments depend on the cause but can include topical creams as well as avoidance of the irritant.
When to visit a Doctor?
See a dermatologist if your problem persists. Chapped skin that does not heal, despite regular use of lip balm, can be a sign of infection or a more serious problem, including cancer or a precancerous condition called actinic cheilitis.
Most people get chapped lips from time to time. There is a lot you can do to treat and prevent chapped lips. Consider these tips:
Protect your lips
Before going out in cold, dry weather, apply a lubricating lip cream or balm that contains sunscreen, then cover your lips with a scarf. Reapply outdoors often.
Avoid licking your lips
The saliva evaporates quickly, leaving the lips drier than before you lick them. If you lick your lips, avoid flavored lip balm, which might make you lick your lips even more.
Drink plenty of fluids and humidify the air in your home with a humidifier.
Avoid contact with irritants or allergens, such as perfumes or dyes, in cosmetics or skin care products.
Breathe through your nose
Breathing through your mouth can dry out your lips.
If the cracking is severe and does not respond to home treatment, see your doctor. Rarely persistent chapped lips can show an underlying problem.