- About 80 percent to 90 percent of the population in the United States has been exposed to the viruses that cause cold sores by the time they reach age 50.
- Cold sores are caused by a virus, either the herpes simplex virus type 1, or herpes simplex virus type 2.
- Cold sores might appear just once in a person's life, or return again and again.
- Some of the things that can cause a cold sore include:
- Stress, fatigue, or feeling run-down.
- A cold, fever, or the flu.
- Exposure to the sun.
- Hormonal changes, such as during menstruation or pregnancy.
- Trauma, such as shaving, cuts, dental work, or facial/cosmetic surgery.
- Antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir HCI, and famciclovir, slow the reproduction of the virus. To be most effective, these medications need to be used at the start of an outbreak.
- The most common form of cheilitis, called angular cheilitis, presents as cracking at the corners of the mouth and can be brought on by an infection, excessive saliva, or dental trauma.
- Actinic cheilitis is a condition in which the lip becomes puffy, blotchy red and pale pink, and might develop occasional white plaques and chronic ulcers.
- It is most commonly developed by people older than age 59, and who have had many years of sun exposure.
- Granulomatous cheilitis, a lumpy swelling of the lips, can be a symptom of Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory disease of the intestines.
- Chronic cracking of the corners of the mouth can be a sign of Sjogren's syndrome, a condition in which the body's immune system attacks its moisture glands.
- Because lips do not contain oil glands, they tend to dry out very easily and become chapped.
- Chapped lips have many causes and can occur during any season.
- People who lick their lips frequently might find that the more licking they do, the drier their lips get.
- The following tips can help prevent chapped lips:
- Increase the moisture: Keep the air in your home moist with a humidifier.
- Don't lick: The constant wetting and drying that occurs with licking quickly causes chapped lips.
- Cover your face: In the winter, especially on windy days, make sure you have a scarf or hat with a mask that covers your lips.
- Use lip balm that contains sunscreen: Because the sun can cause chapped lips and make already chapped lips worse, use a product that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
See your dermatologist for successful diagnosis and treatment of lip and mouth conditions.