Cracks in the corner of the mouth (Angular cheilitis) can be painful. It’s unclear what causes these cracks, but nutritional deficiencies may be at fault.
They can be incredibly uncomfortable. These splits can crust over or bleed if they go deep enough.
There are several potential causes for the condition, and it’s important to identify the right one to ensure treatment works.
- A local fungal infection. Commonly the yeast candida Albicans; think of it as a localised form of thrush.
The spores of this yeast are everywhere, and given a chance — if you have been a bit tired or run down for some reason — it can gain a hold and cause angular stomatitis.
Buy a tube of either Canesten or Daktarin cream (they’re both antifungals) and apply it with the tip of a finger, sparingly, three to four times daily for a fortnight; this may well result in a cure. These products can be bought over the counter so you will not need a prescription.
- A vitamin B deficiency. This is most likely if you’ve not been eating enough fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods — all good sources of Vitamin B.
So if the antifungal treatment also fails, buy some B complex vitamins — a mix of several forms of Vitamin B — from the chemist and take as the label directs for a month or two.
If this helps, you must give some careful thought to your diet in the future.
Relying on vitamin supplements isn’t the answer, as there are so many other important components in good fresh food.
- Iron deficiency anemia and vitamin B12 anemia. These may be due to an underlying disease.
Iron deficiency anemia has many causes — it might simply be you are not getting enough iron from your food. But it can also be an indication of blood loss in the intestine from a silent ulcer or a hiatus hernia.
- Intestine problems – such as diverticulosis (where small bulges or ‘pockets’ form in the wall of the large intestine). They can cause small but continued blood loss.
- Pernicious anemia – due to inadequate amounts of Vitamin B12 in the system, only has one main cause: the inability to absorb the vitamin.
This happens when the stomach lining no longer produces the ‘intrinsic factor’, a molecule that combines with B12 to absorb it into the body. Failure to make the intrinsic factor is usually caused by the immune system attacking the cells that secrete it.
Both iron deficiency and pernicious anaemia require further investigation, which is why it’s important to seek advice if the angular stomatitis doesn’t resolve with the simple measures.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that ill-fitting dentures can cause cracks in the corner of the mouth.
Dentures can change the shape of the face slightly; combined with age, this can allow a small but continuous flow of saliva at each corner of the mouth. This may be what is perpetuating the problem.
If you suspect this is the case, see your dentist before asking your GP to investigate the matter.