Angular Cheilitis Vs. Cold Sores: How To Tell The Difference

Angular Cheilitis Vs. Cold Sores: How To Tell The Difference

Have you ever noticed the appearance of small, red blisters around your mouth? Did you visit a doctor or do some research online afterwards? If you did, you probably determined that you have oral herpes. But these pesky little warts can actually be caused by an entirely different condition known as angular cheilitis. Angular cheilitis is a common inflammatory skin condition that affects one or both corners of the mouth. It may look similar to cold sores, but its treatment requires an entirely different procedure and medication. In this article, you will learn more about the differences between angular cheilitis and cold sores and discover how both of these conditions can be treated.

What Are Cold Sores?

Also referred to as fever blisters, cold sores are small, fluid-filled blisters that appear around the lips. Studies estimate that more than half of the United States population has been infected with a virus that causes cold sores during their lifetime.

Cold sore blisters are often grouped together in small patches. After these blisters break, scabs form. Cold sores usually disappear in two or three weeks and rarely leave any permanent marks.

Cold Sore Symptoms

Cold sores often cause no pain, but do result in the appearance of a few minor symptoms, such as the following:

  • Blisters
  • Oozing and crusting
  • Tingling and itching

Risk Factors For Cold Sores

Once you have been infected with the herpes-simplex virus, there is always a chance that cold sores may reappear around the lips or mouth. However, the frequency of these outbreaks can be influenced by environmental factors, genetics, and other health conditions. The following are a few of the most common risk factors for cold sores:

  • Infection
  • Sun exposure
  • Severe burns
  • Menstruation
  • Eczema
  • Stress
  • Chemotherapy

What Is Angular Cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis is a condition that affects the corners of the mouth, causing red swollen patches to appear around the lips. It is sometimes also referred to as perleche and can appear on one or both sides of the mouth.

When you eat, saliva gets trapped and builds at the corners of the mouth. After it dries, the skin in the area can crack, creating the perfect environment in which fungus can grow. Fungal infection is the most common cause of angular cheilitis, especially a fungus known as Candida, which is the same type of yeast that causes diaper rash in babies.

Symptoms Of Angular Cheilitis

Angular cheilitis can cause the following symptoms around the lips and corners of the mouth:

  • Bleeding
  • Blistering
  • Cracking
  • Crusting
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Angular Cheilitis Foods To Avoid

Research shows that 90% of angular cheilitis cases are caused by poor diet and vitamin B2 deficiency. The absence of vitamin B2 slows down the body's ability to metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Foods that are especially high in saturated fat and sugar may worsen the symptoms of angular cheilitis and should be avoided in all circumstances. A few of the most common of these foods include:

  • Cake
  • Sugary cereals
  • Acidic foods such as lemons

What Can Make Angular Cheilitis Worse?

Rubbing or licking the affected area can worsen the issue, intensify pain, and prolong healing. The irritated areas may crack open or peel, or even bleed. In some cases, the dry, cracked skin can become infected, which can make it much more difficult for the body's immune system to provide healing. Candida, or yeast, is a common cause of infection that can make the area itch or burn.

Risk Factors For Angular Cheilitis

People of any age, gender, or size can develop angular cheilitis. Certain individuals may be at a higher risk due to dietary habits, health conditions, and genetics. Some factors that may increase your risk of developing angular cheilitis include:

  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Immune system disorders
  • Down syndrome
  • Low levels of iron, protein, or vitamin B

Is Angular Cheilitis Contagious?

Unlike cold sores, angular cheilitis is not a contagious condition and cannot be passed through mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-skin contact. Angular cheilitis usually goes away shortly after it appears if it is treated properly with skin ointments, medication, and dietary changes.

Angular Cheilitis Vs Cold Sores: How To Tell The Difference

While these two conditions have symptoms that may resemble each other, they are different in a number of significant ways.

Oral herpes

Cold sores are caused by oral herpes, or infection from the herpes simplex virus. Once a person has contracted the virus, they’ll carry it for life. It’s common for those who have the herpes virus to develop cold sores on the face, especially near the mouth. These same people may also experience outbreaks from time to time in which the sores reappear in the same areas.

However, not everyone with the herpes simplex virus develops cold sores. Those who do often experience herpes outbreaks during times of extreme cold or stress.

Angular cheilitis

Unlike cold sores, angular cheilitis isn’t caused by a virus, and it isn’t carried for life. Angular cheilitis is often caused by a fungal infection from Candida albicans, otherwise known as yeast infection. This fungus usually starts growing when excess saliva gathers around the mouth. This excess saliva piles up and seeps into the lip area. If the saliva is infected from some food source or external factor, you may become infected. This may be the result of poor oral hygiene, improperly fitted dentures, a loss of teeth, or other causes.

Angular Cheilitis Vs. Cold Sores: How To Tell The Difference: Summary

When trying to determine whether your blisters are caused by cold sores or angular cheilitis, we recommend looking for the following:

Cold sores typically begin as an itchy or painful area that turns into one or a group of small, painful blisters. Over time, they may weep, scab over, and finally heal.
Angular cheilitis, on the other hand, begins as a patch of dry, irritated or cracked skin at one or both corners of the mouth.

Cold Sore Treatment

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