Exfoliative cheilitis is an extremely rare medical condition that causes thick, very dry, flaky skin on the lips. Sure, we all experience dry lips from time to time, but this condition is more than that. With exfoliative cheilitis, the skin gets inflamed, it exfoliates to reveal raw skin underneath, and it can be extremely painful. It can impact the social life of those suffering from it to a great degree. Some people even find it hard to eat because of the high level of pain. In this article, we are going to reveal as much as we can about exfoliative cheilitis and what you can do to treat it.
What Is Exfoliative Cheilitis?
Exfoliative cheilitis is a skin disorder of unknown etiology that affects the lips. It is characterized by a continuous peeling of the lips. This exfoliation can become painful. Unlike the usual peeling that occurs due to dehydration or extreme weather, this condition causes more serious health concerns.
Several symptoms manifest in conjunction with this disorder. Many people self-diagnose themselves with exfoliative cheilitis without actually suffering from it. The reality is, few people have this condition, as it is quite rare. Here is what you should be looking for if you suspect you might be suffering from it:
- Cracking or flaking on one or both lips.
- Burning or tingling sensation.
- Discoloration, particularly on the outside edge of the lips.
- Repeated peeling of the skin.
- Swelling of the lips.
Depression and personality disorders are also associated with this condition. The appearance of the lips may become so unpleasant that the patient avoids social situations. This, of course, contributes to mood disturbance.
What causes it?
Researchers have not been able to determine the exact cause of this condition. There are, however, many speculations. It may be a reaction to dental implants, a diet imbalance, or it may be caused by underlying health problems, such as liver malfunction or hormone imbalances. Some specialists suggest that it may also develop from less severe forms of peeling lips. Poor oral hygiene is yet another possible predisposing factor.
Others link it to a fungal mouth infection known as Candida yeast overgrowth (Thrush). There’s a simple way you can test yourself for candidiasis at home. You must do it first thing in the morning, before eating, drinking, or even brushing your teeth. Collect saliva and spit it into a glass filled with distilled water. Wait fifteen minutes, then check back. If the saliva floats on top, you don’t have Candida yeast overgrowth.
However, if any of these phenomena happen, then you should contact a doctor:
- The saliva forms strings that hang into the water.
- Cloudy globs sink into the water or suspend below the surface of it.
Whatever the reason for the actual condition, it’s the excessive keratin buildup that leads to this abnormal peeling of the lips.
Is It Curable?
Doctors can treat cheilitis if they identify and cure the associated condition. Otherwise, this disorder is typically resistant to any form of treatment. The course it takes is also uncertain. It usually progresses over the years. You may experience fluctuations, and it can worsen due to stress. Significant improvements are also common, but the disorder often recurs.
One thing health practitioners seem to agree is that avoiding stress contributes to the effectiveness of medication to a great extent. Consequently, as hard as it may seem, try to remain positive. Seek psychological help if you are struggling with the social consequences of this condition.
How Do We Treat Exfoliative Cheilitis?
1. Don’t lick your lips
Not actually a treatment if you already have this disorder, but it does help with the healing process. Furthermore, not licking, picking or even touching your lips too much may prevent the condition from regressing. Some dermatologists believe that these actions cause exfoliative cheilitis. This is due to the fact that saliva on the lips causes them to dry out. So don’t lick your lips in order to moisturize them because you will be doing the exact opposite. Ask your doctor about healthcare products that can safely moisturize your lips.
2. Apply remedies
Applying the following remedies directly to the lips may alleviate some of the symptoms:
- Organic, natural lip balms.
- Coconut oil.
- Cold compresses.
- Soft dabbing with milk cream.
- Lactic acid lotion.
- Hydrocortisone cream.
3. Detox your body
Most conditions that appear on the outside are triggered by an internal factor. Assuring our internal organs are functioning well and flushing out toxins is key to a healthy skin. Find a good, safe cleansing program and stick to it. You have to get rid of the toxins that often accumulate in the liver and kidney.
4. Eat healthier
A healthy diet can go a long way. Since some specialists believe that the condition is induced by diet, you can also start by changing it. In this day and age, our intake of processed foods that contain a multitude of preservatives is far too high. Keeping such products on a low may help us find relief from many symptoms of skin disorders such as exfoliative cheilitis.
Try to incorporate organic fruits and vegetables into your diet as much as you can. They may be more expensive, but you should view it as an investment towards upgrading your health. Always wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. The irritants on them can aggravate your condition.
Add Omega 3 fatty acids to your meals. It is mostly found in fish and other seafood, but you can also consume green vegetables.
It is also important to consume foods containing vitamin B, iron, and zinc. You can get your B vitamins from fish, whole cereals, eggs, vegetables, rice, beef, and milk. Foods rich in iron include pork, seafood, beans, green leafy vegetables, and peas. As for zinc, you can find it in beef, lamb, turkey, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cashews, quinoa, lentils, and shrimp.
5. Try acupuncture
Many people with exfoliative cheilitis. This method of treatment is not for everyone. Some have tried it and have seen no improvements. Others, however, claim that it did help relieve some of the symptoms, such as reduce the inflammation. It’s up to you to decide if you want to try this generally safe procedure. But if you are taking medicine for this condition or another disease, then do consult with your doctor before testing this or any other form of alternative medicine. It may interfere with other treatments.
Why Seek Medical Help?
Some people choose to take matter into their own hands and try to cure themselves. Of course, you can try the various treatment options presented above. They will most likely help you relieve or even cure some of the symptoms. But only a dermatologist can help you manage the disorder appropriately depending on the severity of your case.
Do keep in mind that, although we have yet to fully understand the causes, this condition may be linked to serious medical issues. We are talking vitamin deficiencies, the body’s inability to process toxins, liver problems, immunosuppression, and so on. Therefore, seeing a doctor and running a few tests may help you find the risk factor.
There’s not just one medication used to treat this condition. Each healthcare practitioner has its own preferred method of treatment, which largely depends on the symptoms you present. Your doctor can recommend corticosteroids. This medication is successfully used to treat a variety of skin condition. It can help with exfoliative cheilitis as well.
According to a study, topical Calendula officinalis can also be effective in curing exfoliative cheilitis. One patient has been successfully cured with topical Calendula officinalis ointment 10%. In only fifteen days, he cheilitis had disappeared.
How Is the Condition Diagnosed?
Your dermatologists will most likely run a few tests before placing the diagnosis. A visual examination may be enough, but exfoliative cheilitis can look like other skin conditions. You may be tested to rule out infections such as candida, Staphylococcus aureus. The doctor will treat any infection topically or systematically.
There is no diagnostic test run specifically for this disorder. Your doctor will basically rule out other similar conditions. You may also be recommended to undergo a psychiatric assessment. It has been reported that stress, anxiety disorder and associated mood can trigger or aggravate cheilitis.
Living with exfoliative cheilitis is hard, especially if we consider the social repercussions. If you suspect you might be suffering from this condition, seek medical help. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking any medications. We suggest on seeing a dermatologist, as they will have dealt with more cases than a general health practitioner.
Follow your doctor’s order thoroughly. This disorder is chronic, which is why you must take all necessary measures to prevent it from getting worse. If you do not see any improvements following a treatment, seek a second opinion.
As already stated, your attitude can influence the effectiveness of the treatment. Consequently, try to remain positive and avoid stress. You can try yoga, meditation, and other similar practices that can remove negative thoughts.