Angular Cheilitis Herpes

Read my lips: There is no such thing as ‘angular cheilitis herpes.’ I bumped into a friend at the supermarket a few months ago who told me that she was a little embarrassed to see me, pointing at the cracked corners of her lips. She proceeded to tell me about her angular cheilitis herpes condition and although I don’t usually like to correct people. I told her it was simply, ‘angular cheilitis.’

Herpes is a totally distinct condition, and while the differences between angular cheilitis and herpes have been outlined on this website, it should prove instructive to take a closer look at the two similar, yet very different conditions.

Spotlight on Angular Cheilitis

As you know, angular cheilitis is an inflammation on one or both parts of the mouth where the corners of the lips crack and can even bleed. It’s typically symptomatic of a bacterial or fungal infection, easily brought about when saliva, with its host of baneful microbes, flows onto the crevices of the lips. This is why excessively licking the lips can often lead to perleche. Indeed, when saliva is too plentiful and overflows out of the mouth, perleche can more readily occur. This further explains the reason why wearing dentures, especially ill-fitting ones, contribute to the condition.

A compromised immune system further compounds the possibility of angular cheilitis rearing its ugly head. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, stress, or general illness, such as the flu, can make conditions ripe for angular cheilitis to appear.

Spotlight on Oral Herpes

Here, we’re not talking about Herpes type 2 (HSV-2) or genital herpes. We’re focusing attention on Herpes type 1, HSV-1, noticeable on the lips in the appearance of blisters. Oral herpes is not the manifestation of a bacterial or fungi infection; it is viral in nature and can be quite contagious.

Other factors leading to herpes include the following: General illness, stress, fatigue, and even menstruation. Again, when natural defenses are low, the virus is more apt to take a hold and display its unsightly symptoms.

Commonalities Between Angular Cheilitis and Herpes

The first similarity is obvious: Both conditions are present on the lips. The symptoms can sometimes be difficult to differentiate especially if the cold sores happen to be mild and reside at the corners of the mouth. Cheilitis and herpes can lead to the same inflamed, red-colored state.

In addition, angular cheilitis and herpes are more likely to arise when our immune system is weak and susceptible to invading microorganisms. When we’re run down, our diet is poor, when we’re not getting enough important nutrients in our system, and stress is bombarding us, microbes seem to have a much easier time surviving and thriving. In our weakened state, we’re unable to effectively battle against the onslaught of warlike bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses, and may fall prey to them – at least temporarily.

Furthermore, angular cheilitis and oral herpes can take a similar physical and emotional toll. Regardless of the condition one is fighting, physical discomfort and pain may be present. This physical soreness does not assuage our already fragile mindset. Indeed, like my friend, many angular cheilitis or oral herpes victims are extremely self-conscious, embarrassed by their perceived ‘marks of shame.’

Differences Between Angular Cheilitis and Herpes

While there may not be obvious differences between perleche and herpes symptoms, there are distinct characteristics. Angular cheilitis is more associated with a dry lip area, almost as if the lips are chapped. Opening the mouth may even be a challenge where eating, laughing, or even smiling poses a risk for additional pain. A white tongue may be observable, possibly indicating yeast-driven, fungi-related perleche infection.

In contrast, if you feel tingling around the lips, your more likely have cold sores. Headache, fever, muscle discomfort, and sore throats are more symptomatic of oral herpes as well.

Another distinguishing attribute between the two conditions are the underlying causes. Again, perleche typically forms due to wayward bacteria or fungi, as opposed to cold sore herpes which arises due to a virus.

The contagion factor is another way to separate the two maladies. Angular cheilitis is generally not contagious although there are doctors who question that ‘fact,’ especially where deep kissing is concerned. Still, the chances of perleche contagion are low at best, if not non-existent. On the hand, cold sores are highly contagious, and can spread from person to person through intimate contact. Oral herpes can even spread when items are shared between people, such as tooth brushes and towels.

The relative ease of herpes contagiousness is even more disconcerting in light of the fact that herpes may pose a lifelong challenge. Sorry to say, the cold sore virus can be an intermittent, yet permanent, problem. You can defeat it for one round and it may easily resurface a short time later. It’s important to keep the virus in a dormant state.

In contrast, angular cheilitis need not be a permanent fixture. Sure, one is more susceptible to getting it again if/when the immune system is weak, but once you tackle the underlying causes, perleche is less likely to victimize you. (This website lists the full gamut of underlying causes and treatment options.)

It should be noted that any treatment utilized will be different when targeting angular cheilitis vs. herpes. Of course, the topical and/or oral medicine used will be different. Antibacterial and anti-fungal formulations, such as Alcortin A, will be prescribed for cheilitis sufferers while anti-viral products, such as Acyclovir 5% Cream (Zovirax) and Penciclovir 1% Cream (Denavir) will be the treatment of choice for cold sore sufferers. Certain formulations may also contain ingredients, such as hydrocortisone, to tackle associated inflammation and redness – common to both conditions. Another consideration: We don’t want these microbes to build up a resistance, particularly when it comes to a virus, so various medications may be alternated.

Final Word

So no, Virginia, there is no such thing as ‘Angular CHeilitis herpes’ as angular cheilitis and herpes are completely different conditions, despite sharing some commonalities. It is recommended that you review Google images to see a variety of pictures of each malady. Of course, self-diagnosis can be challenging so it’s recommended that you go to a dermatologist or family physician to get an expert opinion. You don’t want to pursue a course of treatment that will not address your specific issue.

Get the call right, angular cheilitis or herpes, and your half-way to getting rid of your vexing problem.