The Difference Between Angular Cheilitis & a Cold Sore

It is easy for people to mistake cheilitis for a cold sore. These two conditions are different though so it is important to be able to distinguish them from one another. It is the purpose of this article to allow people to be able to do this.

What is a cold sore?

A cold sore is known in the medical world as herpes labialis. As the name suggests it is caused by the herpes virus. A cold sore appears on the lips as a blister or sore which is on or around the mouth area. A cold sore can be quite painful and is quite noticeable on the face. This blister usually bursts and a scab develops. A cold sore will usually disappear after about ten days.

What is cheilitis?

Cheilitis refers to inflammation of the lips (many people refer to it as chapped lips) and the most common form of this condition is angular cheilitis. This is inflammation at the corner of the mouth which commonly manifests as a sore or split. Experts are not completely sure about how this condition is caused but it is believed to be connected too much saliva on the area or from mechanical causes such as poorly fitting dentures. It is quite a common condition and in most instances will only last a few days. There is believed to be a link between this sore and vitamin deficiencies. More than half of these irritating openings will have a bacterial or fungal infection, and it can sometimes also lead to the development of oral thrush.

When chapped lips appears away from the corner of the mouth the usual cause is cold weather, dehydration, high fevers or a side-effect from certain drugs. It can also be caused by people licking their lips too frequently.

How to treat a cold sore

Cold sores will usually heal by themselves but there are also creams that people use to speed the process along. Aciclovir or acyclovir is an anti-viral cream that is frequently used to treat cold sores and has been proven to increase healing time. Cold sores are very contagious so people should avoid touching them or kissing other people while they have the problem.

How to treat cheilitis

The method used for treating angular cheilitis will very much depend on its cause. It is usually advisable to go and see a doctor because if the sore is infected then not taking the proper medication can slow down the healing process. Most doctors will prescribe a steroidal cream or an anti-fungal topical cream. One thing that may concern the doctor is the reason why the individual is having a problem with these types of sores as it can be the sign of poor eating habits. They may question the patient and make recommendations about possible improvements in nutrition. The condition can also be associated with other conditions such as diabetes and HIV.